More Prince-related artwork has suddenly appeared around his old stomping grounds in Minneapolis, and this time the pieces are truly electrifying.
Four electric utility boxes in the south Minneapolis neighborhood where Prince attended junior and senior high school are now covered in tributes to the city’s greatest music legend, and they’re drawing a royal response from fans and neighbors alike.
Unveiled late last week, the wrapped boxes — between 34th and 38th streets and Park Avenue and Interstate 35W — were commissioned by the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CANDO). One, inspired by the Prince song “Raspberry Beret,” features a woman in a beret standing outside Mr. McGee’s Five & Dime. The others mostly feature the man himself in different phases, including one with “Slave” inscribed on his cheek and another with the large Afro that graced his head in recent years.
These latest tributes have been in the works since the weeks following his death on April 21, 2016, but were held up by various city approval processes, road construction and even fear of copyright-infringement issues that forced alterations to some of the artwork.
“We hit some roadblocks, but they’re finally here and look great,” bragged Tina Burnside, the former CANDO board member who headed up “Project Purple.”
“We wanted to honor him as the amazing artist that he was,” said Burnside, who grew up in the area, “but we also wanted the boxes to serve as inspiration to all the kids there, who can be reminded daily that someone from their same neighborhood accomplished such greatness.”
One box sits near Sabathani Community Center (formerly Bryant Junior High, which Prince attended) and another is by Green Central Park Elementary School (on the site of his alma mater Central High School, which was closed in 1982 and subsequently torn down). They were developed as part of the city-run Minneapolis Art Wraps program, meant not just as a public-art project but a means of combating graffiti on utility boxes, which are mostly filled with wires to control traffic signals.
Laid down with a shrink-wrap-like process, the Prince artwork originated as paintings and graphic-art pieces done by Minneapolis artists, who received a modest stipend. Two are by Tammy Ortegon and one apiece by Anthony Johnson and Juan Reed. Their pieces were picked by CANDO and then had to be approved by the Minneapolis Arts Commission.
“I think they’re cool,” said Joshua Robinson, 19, a nearby resident who was walking by the one nearest the Sabathani Center. “It’s nice they’re honoring Prince, and they just look great. They add some flavor [to the neighborhood].”
Stacy Schwartz, community relations manager at First Avenue nightclub and a homeowner in the neighborhood, said the new public artworks “make perfect sense.”
“The boxes are simple and clean, and put a tiny reminder of him in the neighborhood,” Schwartz said. “It’s a great area in that there are people from all backgrounds and income levels, and I think Prince would have appreciated that his visage is there.”
While no more utility boxes are being planned, CANDO has thrown around ideas for more Prince-related public art, including street banners and murals.