So, Prince absolutely *dominates* Minneapolis street art.
Mural on back of building at 26th and Hennepin, Minneapolis
Which makes a lot of sense. Because let me make a controversial statement: Minneapolis* loves Prince.
*Meaning both the specific city of Minneapolis and using the name as a stand-in for the entire Twin Cities metro area, but I do think the intensity is a degree or two higher within the actual city limits.
Why is controversial to say that we love Prince? Only because it probably understates the case. Minneapolis adores Prince. Our primary hep tastemaking radio station had a dedicated substation devoted to Prince, and has often acted in the past like they had a dedicated Prince News Desk.
Sticker at 6th St. and Central Ave., Minneapolis. Photo by Taylor Dahlin.
It’s not hard to figure out why Minneapolis loves Prince. As a city, punching above our cultural weight has been a thing for a long time; not only was Prince a big part of that overachievement, the fact of it also leaves us unusually primed to appreciate him. And it’s a big deal that a Mozart-level talent* emerged in a mid-sized mid-continental city and chose to stay here. The Twin Cities have produced other great, prominent musicians, but none of them quite hit all the marks that Prince does; Bob Dylan left and never really came back, Paul Westerberg is a grouch who’s loved by a cult (using that word lovingly; I’m certainly a member of said cult) and unknown to the public in general, Lizzo’s not actually from here, and so on. Prince came out of here, chose to stick around, and also did work with an extremely broad appeal, so that it’s loved by nearly everyone and not just bearded dudes in their 40s who wear old concert shirts all the time.
*I’m serious about this. As a person, who cares and thinks a lot about music, I find the number of things that Prince was world-class good at kind of hard to believe. If he’d just played guitar, or just produced records, or just been a pop singer, or just written songs, he would have been revered and remembered. Somehow he was top-level at all of them.
Painted utility box at 38th St. and Park Ave., Minneapolis
I joke that, since Prince’s death in 2016, Minneapolis has been actively working to remake itself into the Prince Necropolis. And if it can seem that way sometimes, the much more generous way to look at it is that a lot of people loved the guy and miss him, and want to do what they can to commemorate and celebrate him. And that, if it can feel overdone some of the time, that’s just because there are so many people moving in the same direction.
Prince symbol at 28th and Nicollet, Minneapolis. Photo by Taylor Dahlin.
Which brings me, finally, back to street art. If Prince dominates, it’s because street art is the most democratic artform to produce and consume—the whole point of it, after all, is that it’s out on the street, visible to all. And again, there’s that previously-mentioned factor that Prince did the kind of work that just about everyone loves, meaning that a big number of the people making street art are inevitably going to be swept up in the wave of people wanting to commemorate him.
Multiple Prince tributes in Chanhassen near Paisley Park, including yarn installation by HOTTEA. Photo by Charlie Hermes.
I like to think of street art as a frozen encapsulation of the conversation a city has with itself. Sometimes that conversation is confrontational. Sometimes it’s aspirational. Sometimes it’s straight-up Dadaist. Sometimes it’s disconcertingly horny.
Street art of the horny variety, south Minneapolis. Honestly, this feels Prince-adjacent.
Simultaneously Dadaist and disconcertingly horny, Berlin.
In the case of Minneapolis’ Prince art, it’s loving and commemorative. It’s a city telling itself that hey, we miss this guy, and we feel special that he was one of us. And chose to remain one of us (even if he did move to Chanhassen). And I love the range from pro-level polished and commissioned to spray-can graffiti to stickers; it’s fitting that an artist whose work was accessible to such a broad range of people would be commemorated with such a wide range of technique and situations.
Mural on back of Seward Co-Op Friendship Store, 38th St. and Clinton Ave, Minneapolis.
So if you’re in the Twin Cities reading this, maybe one of your quarantine activities in the next few weeks ought to be to go out and walk or bike around and take a gander at all the Prince appreciation around you (I think the suggestion for what to listen to as you do so should be pretty obvious). If you’re somewhere else, hey, get out there and pay attention to what conversation’s being held on the walls of your city. Watch out if it’s Dadaist.
Right on. Be safe.
Paper installation on Midtwon Greenway, near Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis
These are, of course, heavy reading times. I’ve been doing a lot of comfort rereads, especially of Gore Vidal’s historical fiction. I’m currently in the middle of his Lincoln, which is honestly one of my favorite books about politics. It’s funny, it’s engrossing, and it’s a little saddening when you contrast Vidal’s portrayal of Lincoln (which I believe is pretty solid, historically speaking) with the leadership situation we have now.
Vidal’s Burr is also pretty rad, and is your one-stop shop for jokes about how big George Washington’s ass was.
Speaking of the current leadership situation: it gets weary trying to stay on top of everything, but David J. Roth does a much better job than most writers of capturing the bizarre psychodrama in the White House. I’ve heard him described as the Trump Era’s Joan Didion, which seems apt. Check him out!
Want to use an online classic Mac emulator to fire up some ancient police sketch software and sketch yourself? Of course you do!
Here’s my extremely flattering effort:
OK, so here at the bottom, sorry for the ragged copy editing; my deal with myself was to keep this fast and loose, which is gonna mean typos. On the other hand, that also means it’ll actually come out, instead of being obsessed over.
If you have any thoughts/reactions/what have you about this, I’d love to hear about it, either by email or on Twitter. And if you know anybody who might dig this, please forward it on to them, or send ‘em the signup link! And thanks!