GM, DIA honor design VP Ed Welburn

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Leaders with the Detroit Institute of Arts and General Motors Co. Monday night surprised the company’s head of global design with a special dedication at the museum.

DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons announced the GM Center for African American Art is being rededicated in honor of Global Design Vice President Ed Welburn. The center’s goal is to enhance public knowledge of African-American contributions to the art community.

“I thank the entire leadership team at General Motors and the leaders of the DIA for this very special honor,” Welburn, 65, said following the announcement and comments from GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra.

Welburn’s career has garnered him dozens of awards, and has distinguished him as the industry’s first and only African-American to lead an automaker’s global design team.

The recognition to Welburn, who started at GM in 1972, is particularly fitting for the DIA, which was the first major arts museum to create a center solely focused on the collection and work of African-American artists.

Barra said she was “so proud” that the Detroit-based automaker “has the ability” to honor Welburn, thanking him for all he’s done for GM, a longtime supporter of the DIA.

“I can personally say for the GM leadership team, we are all grateful that Ed brought his talent and his leadership to General Motors and to the city of Detroit,” she said. “He has made a tremendous impact on this company, on our customers and the industry worldwide.”

Barra said when Welburn was 11, he wrote to the company saying he wanted to become a car designer. GM responded and recommended he take the necessary steps to achieve his dream, and now he has done the same for others.

“He has generously coached and mentored many promising young designers,” she said.

Welburn was named to his current position in March 2005. Before, he served as vice president of GM North America design. Welburn is in charge of the company’s 10 global design centers in seven countries and 2,500 employees and is part of Barra’s executive team.

He sits on the GM Foundation board and also serves on the board of trustees for the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

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