Prince fans are traveling from far and wide this week to commemorate the anniversary of their loved one’s death. Many will attend Celebration at Paisley Park; more will explore Prince’s hometown, Chanhassen; droves will party at First Avenue. Some travelers will visit a place unknown to many locals, a so-called hidden gem of Minneapolis: the Textile Center, which is currently presenting a Prince-centric exhibition of quilts.
When you walk in the Textile Center, you’ll probably use the door on University Avenue. A building sign will tell you where you are, but you won’t need it to know you’re in the right spot. Purple paisley fabric decorates a pole out front, and you could always peek in through the former Ford showroom’s enormous windows.
Just inside the Textile Center’s doors and to the left, a cozy space holds rotating exhibitions; from March 9 to April 29, the gallery is all-Prince. Twenty-four quilts — collectively known as Commemorating His Purple Reign: A Textural Tribute to Prince — hang on the walls of the Joan Mondale Gallery, ranging in size, shape, and color (a certain royal shade shows up over and over).
Each quilt depicts a different facet of Prince’s life: his music (Young Prince [Charming] by Stacie Dolin), his philanthropy (Prince…the Quiet Philanthropist by Marjorie Freeman), his legacy (The Artist Inspired by Prince by Dorothy Burge), and so on. The variety in subject matter didn’t come about by accident, according to Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, a member of the Textile Center’s National Artist Advisory Council and the exhibition’s curator. “They’re so broad in scope,” she said over the phone, explaining how the artists embraced what it meant to be Prince, that “it’s quite an appropriate celebration of his life.”
Dr. Mazloomi says the Textile Center’s director imagined a Prince tribute exhibit after April last year, and they put out an open call. Mayumi Takahashi, from Falcon Heights, Minn., was already working on her Violets and Purple before he passed away. But most of the artists made quilts as memorials.
The exhibition is full of work from master quilters, rich in skill and creativity. Funk in Purple: A Tribute to Prince, by Brenetta Ward, presents one fabric swatch for every year of Prince’s life. Carolyn Crump’s When Doves Cry imagines doves flying away with squares of Prince’s likeness. Most of the quilts were made with techniques the layperson can barely grasp.
The quilts also show how dearly the artists loved Prince. “Artists really have to be invested in the theme or the topic to produce work that’s memorable,” Dr. Mazloomi says, “and I think that’s what the artists did with that exhibit.” In her artist statement, Ed Johnetta Miller wrote, “When Dr. Mazloomi asked me to make a quilt in honor of the beyond fabulous, gorgeous, irrepressible Prince, I was incredibly pleased. When I think about Prince, I especially admire his fashions — ruffles, velvet, lace, silk, leather, feathers, chiffon, fringed jackets, and metallics […] This is a man who took one color and made it into a worldwide style, mode, tone and trend.”
Dr. Mazloomi hopes the exhibition will expand new visitors’ perspectives on quilts. “These are not the traditional quilts,” she says. “People have an idea that quilts are just something to keep you warm. But these have transcended that, and they jumped off the bed onto the wall, and they’re talkin’.”
She also hopes it will draw new people to the Textile Center, which also holds a dye lab, a gift shop, a Weavers Guild space, and the largest circulating textile library in the country. She says, “Hopefully, more and more people in the region will hear about it and take advantage of what the center has to offer.”
Some of the quilts are for sale, ranging from $500 (1 Alphabet Street, Erotic City by Earamichia Brown) to $15,000 (Fallinlove2nite, which Prince’s fabric dyer Marliss Jensen made out of his old costume swatches. “His color palette had a remarkable range,” she wrote in an artist statement. “From purple to peach, turquoise to orange and yellow to blue”). A few, however, are listed as “NFS” — not for sale.
At the gallery, a donation box asks visitors to give what they can, but the exhibition is free and open to the public during the Textile Center’s regular hours.
Especially given its convenient location, the Textile Center feels a bit like an oasis. It isn’t far from Stadium Village, where local college students eat, sleep, and study. It’s just steps from the Prospect Park Green Line stop. But its stretch of University Avenue, less than a mile from the St. Paul border, sees far fewer cars than its neighbors. The natural light and relatively private area give the space an ambiance worth pursuing between busy tribute events.
Up next, the Textile Center welcomes Barbara Lee Smith: That’s How the Light Gets In to the Joan Mondale Gallery from May 4 to June 24. The Prince exhibition could live on beyond April 29 — according to Director of Marketing & Community Engagement Jenny Jones, the quilts may tour after ending their run at the Textile Center.