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DIA exterior at night
DIA exterior at night

John H. Johnson Honored as Trailblazer at the Detroit Institute of Arts’ 43rd Annual Bal Africain®

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

John H. Johnson, the late founder and publisher of Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), and his daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, current JPC CEO, will be honored at the 43rd Annual Bal Africain® on Saturday, June 24, 2006 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

The event’s theme, Trailblazer, will highlight the many contributions made by the Johnson family as founder of EBONY and Jet magazines, and Fashion Fair Cosmetics.  The black-tie event is hosted by the DIA and the Friends of African and African American Art (FAAAA).  Rhonda Walker, news anchor for WDIV-TV 4, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

“In honoring John H. Johnson and Linda Johnson Rice, this year’s event shines a spotlight on an extraordinarily successful publishing company,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director. “Their story of entrepreneurship and rise to prominence is an inspiration for all, and we are happy to recognize them at the 2006 Bal Africain.”

Over the years, Bal Africain has become one of Metro Detroit’s premiere fundraising initiatives, yet it remains a one-of-a-kind evening of art, fine dining and dancing. Proceeds from Bal Africain benefit the FAAAA and are used to sponsor lectures, fund educational programs, and to acquire works of art for the museums’ African, African American, and Haitian collections.

During this year’s Bal Africain, guests will also have the opportunity to view the highly acclaimed exhibition African American Art from the Walter O. Evans Collection, sponsored by the General Motors Corporation and GM Foundation.  Dr. Evans’ collection includes paintings, sculptures and works on paper from some of the most accomplished African American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Henry Ossawa Tanner, Edmonia Lewis, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence.

GM Foundation Chairman and General Motors Vice President Roderick D. Gillum, Ford Motor Company Fund President Sandra E. Ulsh, and The Coca-Cola Company Senior Vice President Ingrid Saunders Jones are the corporate chairs for this year’s event. The 2006 Bal Africain Gala Chair Vivian Rogers Pickard is also from General Motors.

 “Each year, Bal Africain is one of the highlights on our community calendar combining a unique celebration of African American art and culture with public acknowledgment of the contributions of trailblazers such as John H. Johnson,” said Gillum.  “GM is pleased to join the DIA and the Friends of African and African American Art in their salute to one of the most influential African American leaders in America.  His legacy is a true inspiration for all.”

“This year’s theme, Trailblazer, is in honor of the path forged by John H. Johnson, whose determination and commitment to educating communities led to the formation of the largest black-owned publishing company in the world.  Ford shares this commitment to education and is proud to be a sponsor of Bal Africain, the DIA and the Friends of African and African American Art,” said Ulsh. 

This year, it is an honor for The Coca-Cola Company to support the Detroit Institute of Arts’ 43rd Annual Bal Africain dinner honoring this year’s Trailblazers, the late John H. Johnson and Linda Johnson Rice”, said Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president of The Coca-Cola Company.  “John Johnson lived a life of immense accomplishments and, because of his courage and quiet dignity, he created a legacy that will inspire others to never see obstacles – only challenges that can lead to success.  Linda Johnson Rice continues this legacy of leadership and entrepreneurship, focusing her considerable passion, talent and expertise on the continued excellence of the Johnson Publishing Company.”  

Johnson founded EBONY in 1945 and Jet in 1951.  Both magazines highlight the lives and successes of African Americans.  Johnson was the first African American to appear on Forbes Magazine’s list of the “400 Richest Americans” and was cited as “the greatest minority entrepreneur in American history” by Baylor University.

Taking the reins from her father, Linda Johnson Rice is president and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. Rice was appointed to her position in 2002, and is responsible for overseeing the domestic and international business operations of the company.

Rice has worn many hats at Johnson Publishing Company, including vice president, special assistant to the publisher, vice president and fashion coordinator for EBONY magazine, and fashion coordinator for EBONY Fashion Fair. Under her leadership, she has championed the revitalization of layout and design for EBONY and Jet, in addition to new advertising packaging and product launches for Fashion Fair Cosmetics.  These initiatives have resulted in EBONY and Jet remaining the number one African American magazine and newsweekly in the world.

For 43 years, Friends of African and African-American Art (FAAAA) has dedicated itself to cultivating and promoting a deeper appreciation and understanding of the rich artistic legacies of Africa, African Americans, and the African Diaspora. One of the oldest auxiliary groups at the DIA, its mission is to stimulate interest in and promote an appreciation for the art and culture of people of African descent. The commitment of the group is one of the reasons the DIA became the first major American museum to have a permanent African art collection.

Event supporters include platinum sponsors General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and The Coca-Cola Company and silver sponsors DaimlerChrysler, GMAC, LaSalle Bank and Masco Corporation.

Individual tickets for Bal Africain start at $400. Various sponsorship packages are available. A portion of all contributions is tax-deductible.

For more information, call (877) 359-9522 or visit

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The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA's collection is known for its quality, range and depth.

The DIA is currently undergoing a major renovation, scheduled for completion in late 2007. The museum remains open with a dynamic schedule of programs and activities for all ages. Visitors can enjoy some of the DIA’s “greatest hits” while the museum prepares for an entirely new installation when renovations are completed.