There is a spray paint can called “Purple Rain.” It’s part of the new Prince mural covering the east wall of the building at 26th & Hennepin home to Sencha Tea Bar.
Even before Prince died, artist Rock Martinez planned to paint a mural devoted to the artist. The idea came to him when he learned Prince was ill.
“Wouldn’t it be cool to do a get well soon card?” he said.
Then on April 21, Martinez heard someone yell “RIP Prince” out a car window.
“My stomach started hurting,” Martinez said. “I just had to get something out of my system.”
Martinez had the same reaction when he learned Michael Jackson died in 2009.
“Only that was illegal, in the middle of the day at a DQ in Tucson, Arizona,” he said.
He asked his friend to pull over, and he grabbed spray cans from the car and quickly painted Jackson’s portrait. Though illegal, the mural was well-received and stayed up for six months.
In Minneapolis, Martinez immediately created a mock-up of the Prince mural and readied the color palette.
“I was going to reach out on Facebook and say someone give me a wall,” he said.
Martinez paints a seasonal wall on the north side of the Sencha building at 26th & Hennepin, and building owner 10th Floor Properties offered him a permanent spot on the east wall.
Martinez listened to Prince music while he worked. (His current favorites are “I Would Die 4 U” and the guitar solo at the end of “Purple Rain.”) As he painted, television reporters watched and people arrived with flowers.
“Because I’m so new to Minneapolis, I’m super grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “Being there and painting the portrait showed how much he meant to them. It’s brought people together.”
Fans of the mural can expect to see more of Martinez in Uptown. When 10th Floor Properties relocates out of the ground floor of 1313 W. 26th St., Martinez will open a boutique art shop there, featuring a gallery and art supplies.
Bryce Ferrell of 10th Floor said Martinez will return in July to finish the mural and paint the entire back wall. He said visitors have been steady.
“Even in the rain, it’s been three to five an hour,” he said.