What a better way to bring African American Music Appreciation Month (formerly known as Black Music Month, renamed by President Obama in 2009) to a close than by recognizing and celebrating one of music's greatest icons. Earlier this month, Prince would have celebrated his 60th birthday. Although he was not big on birthday celebrations himself, I decided to take a trip to his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota that week in his honor. This trip was one of my most memorable ones domestically or internationally.
Prince was so proud to be from Minneapolis and the city had a huge impact on his development as an artist. If you ever have the opportunity to take a quick trip to the Twin Cities, I highly recommend you make these stops a priority!
Paisley Park was Prince’s personal playground. He had this 65,000 square-foot facility built in Chanhassen, Minnesota in the 1980s. It includes music studios, a sound stage and his NPG Music Club where he would host parties and events. Prince recorded most of his albums here, and so did many other artists such as Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and Celine Dion. The soundstage was used to film several music videos and the film Graffiti Bridge, the sequel to Purple Rain.
Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited inside, but touring the massive space and seeing everything from Prince’s handwritten songs and Grammy collection, to his outfits and doves (yes, I saw Prince’s actual doves! 🕊) is something you must experience for yourself.
Since Prince’s passing, fans have covered the walls of the Riley Creek tunnel into a tribute to the music icon—some are even calling it the new “Graffiti Bridge.” The tunnel runs between Paisley Park and Lake Ann Park, so it is a must stop if you are visiting Paisley Park as well.
Prince Mural at Chanhassen Cinema
This 40-foot mural by New Zealand artist Graham Hoete, was painted on the wall of the Chanhassen Cinema, not long after Prince’s death.
First Avenue & 7th Street Entry
If Paisley Park was Prince’s first creative home, First Avenue was his second. This club is where Prince got his start in the Minneapolis music scene. Many of Purple Rain’s club scenes were filmed here, helping catapult the venue to legendary status.
The walls of the club are covered with silver stars and the names of musical acts from all genres—from Rock to Hip-Hop—that have performed here over the years. After Prince’s passing, his star was painted gold in his remembrance.
Schmitt Music Mural
In 1977, Minnesota-based photographer Robert Whitman took several photos of a young Prince, who was then on the rise in the Minneapolis music scene, looking for a record deal and in need of a press kit. The Schmitt Music mural, located in downtown Minneapolis, was one of the sites of their shoot. View all of Whitman’s Prince photo’s here.
“Prince From Minneapolis” exhibit at Weisman Art Museum
In a nearly year-long celebration of Prince’s legacy, the Weisman Art Museum displayed an exhibit entitled “Prince from Minneapolis.” This exhibit featured various artistic creations in tribute to the artist while highlighting the ways in which the city shaped Prince as an artist. (This exhibit is no longer on display.)
The Prince Piano
The mpls downtown council featured “Pianos on Parade”, 25 uniquely designed pianos for the public to play throughout downtown Minneapolis. This Minneapolis music-themed paino, featuring Prince and seveal Minneapolis musicians who were influenced by him, was placed outside of the MacPhail Center for Music.
Further reading on Prince's life and legacy:
Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi, forward by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
Prince Rogers Nelson
June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016
(all photographs taken and owned by Leah Castleberry)