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Music of Prince combined with iconic artwork to help local museums combat pandemic

The InspireMSP campaign aims to encourage more people to visit local museums safely.

MINNEAPOLIS — Four prominent Minnesota museums have joined forces for a new ad campaign that combines iconic art with the music of Prince to convey a simple message.

"We want to let people know that we're here, come visit us," said Alan Seiffert, executive director of Paisley Park. "This is a really challenging time, but it's also a really good time for us to reflect."

Paisley Park is part of the new InspireMSP campaign, which also features artwork from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Weismann Art Museum and the Walker Art Center. The campaign includes several billboards and print ads, which feature photo mosaic's combining the artwork in to single images. A television ad also pairs the art with the Prince recording of "Nothing Compares 2 U." 

"I think it's a creative person's dream," said Dan Ryan, an account director for Preston Kelly, which came up with the idea to bring all four institutions together. "You don't often get to work with iconic art that is featured in your work like this, ever in your career."

The ad agency is working on the campaign pro bono, because it comes at a time of unprecedented challenges for the cultural institutions due to COVID-19.

"I think the challenging part for everyone is just a bit of the unknown," Seiffert said. "On a very practical level, we are at 25% of the kind of past capacity."

The Walker's senior curator, Siri Engberg, says the outdoor sculpture garden has been a busy refuge for people this spring and summer, but she says they don't want to see guests disappear when the weather turns.

"Now that the galleries are open we want to make sure that people know that you can walk across the street, you can come inside." Engberg said. "We do require a timed ticket. You need to go on WalkerArt.org and sign up for your time slot. That keeps the flow of visitors at a minimum and makes sure everybody's got safe distance."

Each of the participating museums have information on the InspireMSP website, detailing their COVID-19 safety plans. That was welcome news for Shelia Pittman, who traveled to Paisley Park with her family from Tennessee last week.

"We were schedule to come here in March, anyway, and once the pandemic started they, you know, shut everything down," Pittman said. "People are fearful, you know, so they want to see what you're doing to protect them," Pittman said.

Because not everyone is ready to travel several states quite yet, the campaign has a regional aim, with several local billboards and television spots looking to catch the eyes of people who may be open to exploring different kinds of art.

"There may be people who have gone to the Walker but haven't come (to Paisley Park) yet," Seiffert said. "So this was also a way for us to really figure out how do we end up touching those audiences because they will find, as with the Walker, they will find amazing things here." 

"In a time where we can come together to help each other, it's a really inspirational campaign to work on," Ryan said. "An inspirational message, hopefully, to everyone."

"You know, it's just as important as science and sports and those kind of things," said Tony Pittman, Sheila's brother. "You want to make sure that people have diversified things to do and art is very important."

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