It’s never a dull night when celebrities and the art world come together to support philanthropic causes. From the couture and red carpet to the heart lifting music and worldwide impact of combined generosity, Keep a Child Alive’s Black Ball has been a night to remember for twelve years.
We caught up with the folks at Keep a Child Alive (KCA) and the studio responsible for this year’s design, to hear more about the cause, the event, and the stunning collateral design for the 2015 Black Ball held at the iconic Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, an event which raised $3.8 million.
At Mohawk, we believe in the power of community to achieve incredible things. Tell us about Keep a Child Alive and how it empowers African communities.
KCA: Founded in 2003 by AIDS activist Leigh Blake and Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys, Keep a Child Alive was created as an emergency push to get life-saving HIV medications to African children and families, who otherwise would not have had access to treatment. Twelve years on, our work has grown to include the critical components necessary to support successful, life-long HIV treatment: comprehensive clinical care, nutritious food and psychosocial support, all delivered with compassion, dignity and respect. Serving 56,000 people annually, Keep a Child Alive provides financial and programmatic support to seven innovative community-based grassroots programs in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and India.
The Black Ball is an exquisite star-studded night with a critical mission. Please share a bit about the history of the fundraiser and this year’s theme: Afrofuturism.
KCA: To date we have raised $28.8 million to positively change the lives of children, youth, and families living with HIV in Africa and India through the Black Ball.
The first fundraiser, held in NYC in 2003 and called the ‘Pusher’s Ball,’ raised funds to get HIV drugs to children in sub-Saharan Africa who otherwise would not have had access to treatment. Renamed the Black Ball in 2004, we have since honored some amazing people and witnessed magical musical collaborations between Alicia and other leading artists (Bono, David Bowie, Jay-Z and Adele, to name just a few). With Alicia hosting the evening, it’s a truly personal, moving experience. And with so many leaders in business, philanthropy, music and entertainment in the room, it’s an evening full of energy and possibility.
KCA: The theme of this year’s Black Ball was Afrofuturism, which celebrates the ingenuity, creativity, and talent of Africa’s entrepreneurs, artists, designers, musicians and activists.
Alicia Keys, KCA Co-Founder: At this year’s Black Ball, we will bring attention to the young, vibrant and extraordinary people of Africa. Their future is bright, but with 25 million people currently living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, we need to get AIDS out of the picture once and for all, for Africa to reach their full potential.
How do you transform such a serious endeavor into an evening of hope and entertainment?
KCA: Every year we reinvent the look and feel of the Black Ball. Once we have our theme, we then think about ways to translate this into print, web and the décor of the space.
Earle Sebastian, KCA Creative Director: The overall tone each year for the event always looks at the place we work in a celebratory way. We look back at our achievements over the past year and we bring our supporters and guests to a place that reflects this. Yes, indeed the Black Ball is a fundraiser, but we never look at it as a corporate event. We look at it as a mission, but also a party and even though we are a non-profit, we are fortunate enough to have a body of supporters that can help us take the event from something that’s not only a gala, but a spectacle.
Afrofuturism as a theme is something that I had a lot of fun playing with. My points of reference for that were young African artists. African artists as a whole tend to work with found objects and use that to create something that ends up being something extremely contemporary. That was the approach we wanted to take in the art direction for this year.
Mogollon design studio designed the invitation. Please share how they communicated Earle Sebastian’s vision in the invitation and Black Ball journal.
Teneka King, KCA Communications Manager: The printed invitation is a very special piece to us, as we believe that it needs to be representative of not only what guests should expect on the night, but that it should also be a special tactile experience that makes them want to join us.
Earle Sebastian, KCA Creative Director: [We asked Mogollon] to do Afrofuturism like we’ve never seen it before. The color palette was something that I most loved. Using peppermint, gold, and royal blues, in my mind were not the obvious choices. The final piece was bold, contemporary and extremely modern, but somehow had a spiritual essence to it, that sold it for me as it relates to the work that KCA does.
Mogollon: For the invitation, we selected some of the most typically used African patterns and shapes and integrated them within the design in a modern way. The idea was to create an invitation that would feel African, modern and elegant. The emblem was conceived by combining many common African shapes that you find in prints, jewelry, and architecture and creating a sort of mandala; a symbol for Afrofuturism. Alicia Key’s photo, beautifully printed as a duotone (black and cobalt blue) with the symbol foil stamped in gold on top, served as that iconic imagery that you can post on a wall or save as a collectible piece.
Why did you select Mohawk paper for the event collateral materials?
Teneka King, KCA Communications Manager: A lot of thought and consideration went into the printing process and paper selection for the invite this year. It is honestly, one of the most complex pieces we’ve created, not only is it massive, but it’s also a full coverage two-sided print, with gold ink and gold foil and many folds! So we had to take all those things into consideration when selecting the paper. The duo-tone image on the back is very detailed and dense, so we had to make sure that the paper would be able to take all the ink. The poster gets folded down to a 5×7 piece, so we needed a paper that wasn’t too thick, but had enough opaqueness, so that the images didn’t show through on either side.
Then we discovered Mohawk Options – which was everything we needed and more. I loved how smooth the paper was, all whilst having a great opaqueness and thin enough for us to fold multiple times. The stock we chose was a hybrid between coated and uncoated, so it had the feel of an uncoated paper, while allowing the ink to maintain its brilliance and not get muddled.
To learn more about Keep a Child Alive please visit keepachildalive.org