He has promised to make us proud
Twenty-four miles south of Boston, just off Massachusetts Route 24, lies the city of Brockton, population 105,000. Dubbed “The City of Champions,” most notably for professional boxing legends Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Brockton can also boast ultra-talented Hiero Veiga as one of its own.
It didn’t take long for Veiga—the internationally renowned artist presently in the process of finishing the mural of Prince Rogers Nelson that will grace Ramp A along First Avenue North in downtown Minneapolis—to make his mark beyond the hometown where he started painting graffiti at the age of 12.
Though self-taught like Prince, the subject of his latest piece, Veiga never stopped learning and remains “obsessed” with perfecting his craft. “He was a really shy kid, extremely polite,” remembers Diane Prince, Veiga’s darkroom photography teacher at Brockton High School.
“But there was always something about Richie [as he was known then],” she continued. ”It wasn’t just that he was inquisitive, but he absorbed absolutely everything. You could see it in his eyes. Richie immersed himself in art.”
Today, 22 years since he picked up his first can of spray paint, the now Miami-based Veiga is recognized around the world for his colorful hyperrealism and public murals that include portraits, natural landscapes, and the psychedelic. His art can be seen all over the United States, including Hawaii, and in cities from Kingston, Jamaica to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In June of 2020, Veiga partnered with Thomas “Detour” Evans on a “Spray Their Name” campaign throughout the streets of Denver, where the two muralists memorialized the likes of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and others who have died at the hands of America’s police departments.
And this past August Veiga took part in yet another of POW WOW Worldwide’s international mural festivals, “Cleveland Walls.” There he helped reimagine and beautify the facades of numerous buildings around the city’s Midtown district in what organizers called a “celebration of art, culture and community.”
Robyne Robinson, former Twin Cities news anchor, museum curator, and principal consultant at Five X Five Art, notes that in recent years displays of public art such as these have become increasingly vital to the political landscape, the social fabric of our neighborhoods, and in raising the voices of the traditionally underserved and underrepresented.
“The historic value of the artwork being produced,” writes Robinson, is that “…the message is immediately accessible to its audience—the public—without the use of traditional channels like media or museums.” And this is why an artist like Hiero Veiga is the perfect choice to paint our very own Prince, hovering 100 feet above the very avenue that he made world-famous.”
Crowning our Prince
The Prince Select Committee, made up of family members, childhood friends, musical collaborators and others who worked for him, as well as the Prince Estate, partnered with an array of distinguished artists and consultants to narrow a pool of 60 potential muralists down to 10.
After those 10 were interviewed by members of Prince’s family, the list was trimmed to three. The three finalists were then able to turn the tables, so to speak, and interview Prince’s family, so as to learn as much as they could about the hometown hero from some of those who knew him best.
The finalists all went back home to create their vision, and when the designs came back, the decision of the Prince Select Committee was unanimous: Hiero Veiga.
Upon hearing the news, Veiga stated, “It is an honor to be selected to paint the mural of Prince. I have worked my entire life for an opportunity like this. I understand the full weight of this responsibility. This is Prince’s legacy, and I will make sure that this mural makes Prince’s family, fans, Minneapolis, and the world proud.”
Painting began on May 16. The mural will be completed and sealed on June 1 before it is unveiled to the world on June 2.
Diane Prince is hoping to make the journey from Massachusetts to Minnesota for the unveiling, positive that her former student’s mural will be nothing short of amazing. “He blossomed into such an extraordinary artist,” she said, bursting with pride. “Hiero’s a brilliant talent, and his work is breathtaking.”
Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, the CEO of Rae Mackenzie Group, along with Public Art Consultant Joan Vorderbruggen is the force behind the mural and the journey to “Crown Our Prince.” She added that it’s not just Veiga’s talent that will make this mural special, but also his profound understanding of just how important this particular undertaking is.
“Whatever Hiero paints on that wall,” she explained, “he knows that people experiencing homelessness will pass by, as will those in poverty, others down on their luck. Professionals with money and even millionaires will see it, too. The mural should inspire everyone that casts their eyes on it— Hiero gets that.
The official presentation of the Prince mural will take place Thursday, June 2 as part of the Purple Block Party in downtown Minneapolis. This event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled to start at 7 pm and last until 10 pm.
Upcoming editions of the MSR will feature the complete story behind the seven-year journey to commission the Prince mural and make Minneapolis shine purple every day.
Tony Kiene’s experience in the Twin Cities nonprofit and entertainment industries includes work with Minneapolis Urban League, Penumbra Theatre, Hallie Q. Brown, and Pepé Music.
He welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.