Arts and Culture

Prince mural in downtown Minneapolis unveiled at block party

Prince Mural Block Party
Lights illuminate a mural of Prince at the Purple Block Party on Thursday. The event marked the official unveiling of a 100-foot mural dedicated to the hometown icon and musician.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Updated: June 3, 6:02 a.m. | Posted: June 2, 4:24 p.m.

A plan seven years in the making was unveiled Thursday evening as the Minneapolis Prince mural neared completion.

The Purple Block Party marked the official unveiling of the 100-foot mural dedicated to hometown musician and icon Prince.

Joan Vorderbruggen and Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, project leaders for the mural, spoke with The Current’s Jill Riley about the history of the project.

In 2015, Smith-Akinsanya and Vorderbruggen teamed up and started talking about a tribute in hopes that “Prince was able to get his roses while he was alive,” they said.

In 2016, when Prince died, they took a step back and assessed the best way to memorialize him through art, a way he would have wanted.

“We knew Prince didn’t want a statue and we all knew that when Prince showed up, he dressed to the nines all the time,” Smith-Akinsanya said. “And so we knew we needed a muralist that could do awesome faces and we got to work on trying to find that muralist and a location to get it done.”

Smith-Akinsanya said a mural of this size and legacy took a lot of sign off and approvals. First, it would require the support of his family. Smith-Akinsanya had a professional relationship with Prince, as she was his advisor on communications and public relations for a time.

Next came in Joan Vorderbruggen.

Vorderbruggen, often referred to as ‘Joan of Art’ and ‘Joan the Connector,’ has been involved in a number of murals in Minneapolis. She said the Paisley Park estate was adamant that they did not want to do open calls for people to submit designs. Instead, they took nominations from various people across the world to find a muralist who could do large-scale, photo-realistic portraiture who also was from a communities of color.

The selection committee was comprised of Prince’s family, friends, former colleagues, creative directors, and others who knew him intimately. All 16 members voted unanimously for artist Hiero Veiga.

Sharon Smith-Akinsanya said Veiga was chosen in part because of his story and understanding of Prince.

“He understood that the mural needed to inspire and represent all walks of life,” she said. “We’re painting this mural in downtown Minneapolis where we have people experiencing homelessness, people experiencing trauma and those having bad days. We wanted to make sure that we have a muralist who understand that all types of people from all races, from all backgrounds, will be walking past this mural and it was important for them to feel it, to be inspired and believe that they could be anything they wanted to be.”

The mural is about 100 feet tall on a wall near Ramp A by on the southwest corner of First Avenue and Eighth Street in downtown Minneapolis.

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