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Let’s Go Crazy: Legacy dollars could honor Prince with mural

Sharon Smith-Akinsanya testifies in the House Legacy Finance Division in support of HF2360, sponsored by Rep. Raymond Dehn, left, which would appropriate $250,000 for a mural in Downtown Minneapolis honoring the life of Prince. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The legacy of Prince looms large in Minnesota, the state he called home throughout his life. And the image of the musical icon may loom large above First Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis.

HF2360 would appropriate $250,000 from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund to help create a mural of the legendary musician, who died in April of 2016. Sponsored by Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Mpls), it would earmark the money for the mural, which would come from a Minnesota Humanities Center grant.

On Wednesday, the House Legacy Finance Division laid the bill over for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Testifying in favor of the bill was Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, a former employee of Prince who is now chief executive officer of the Rae Mackenzie Group, a diversity and inclusion marketing group.

“It was in 2018 when Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and I had a conversation about what can we do to make sure that the world knows that Minnesota remembers her brother, my former boss,” Smith-Akinsanya said. “We looked at the (Bob) Dylan mural (at Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis), which we loved, and thought ‘Maybe we can do something similar for Prince.’ We thought that a mural would be a place that the whole world could see and visit and be with Prince.”

They were guided to nonprofit arts developer Artspace, which agreed to donate the space on the back of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.

Prince is honored on the House Floor

Smith-Akinsanya said the topic of art portraying Prince had come up in the musician’s lifetime, and that he was quoted as saying that he didn’t want a statue, because “they won’t get my face right.”

“So we knew that the face was something important to Prince,” she said. “And no one does faces better than the Brazilian muralist, Eduardo Kobra. And so he has agreed to do the Prince mural.” Kobra also painted the nearby Dylan mural.

“Prince could have lived anywhere in the world, but he didn’t,” Smith-Akinsanya said. “He chose us.”

And, if the appropriation is part of Legacy funding for the next biennium, his image will live on, a block from the First Avenue nightclub that he made famous in the film “Purple Rain.”

A companion, SF2053, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Committee.

It’s evidently the first time that Prince has appeared in proposed House legislation, but not the first time he’s been memorialized in the body.

After Prince’s death in April of 2016, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, then a DFL representative, sang “Purple Rain” on the House Floor. She was accompanied by Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley) on keyboards.

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