Minnesota photographer Allen Beaulieu helped shape the icon we know today as Prince.

As Prince’s personal photographer and friend from the late 1970s into the early 1980s, he charted the musician’s progression from rising star to superstar. Through it all, Beaulieu had access to Prince that few photographers have had, before or since. 

View images Beaulieu captured for the album covers of “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy” and “1999,” as well as the posthumous releases of “Piano and a Microphone” and “Originals.” Plus, see live performance shots and behind-the-scenes candids in the new exhibit “Prince: Before the Rain,” opening Sept. 21 at the Minnesota History Center, 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul.

The exhibit features 50 digital prints of Prince, The Revolution, Morris Day and The Time and other artists, as well as a handful of artifacts that speak to Prince’s image. Designed to feel like an intimate nightclub with black walls, long purple drapes and a glittering chandelier, visitors can relax on a round purple velvet couch while taking in the surrounding images. At the exhibit entrance, fans can take a selfie in front of a wall reminiscent of the famed “Graffiti Bridge” in Eden Prairie where Beaulieu took promotional photos of Prince.

The exhibit draws from the Minnesota History Society Press book, “Prince: Before the Rain,” by Beaulieu.

“The man was beautiful to me. He took me on three tours. I got to see the country. I got to see a rock star. I got to develop a rock star,” recounts Beaulieu.

Fans can hear Beaulieu during a panel discussion at the History Center's free program, First Tuesdays/First Avenue: Prince Night, Oct. 1, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Beaulieu will be joined by The Revolution band member Dez Dickerson and DJ Kevin Cole, with The Current’s Adrea Swensson moderating. Cole will also DJ in the gallery from 6:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Visitors are encouraged to continue Prince’s story with “Purple Rain,” in the neighboring exhibit, “First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom.” The exhibit features the suit Prince wore in the movie and other artifacts, as well as a section devoted to Prince’s April 2016 passing with memorial letters and items left at First Avenue. 

“Prince: Before the Rain” and “First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota Mainroom” are on view through May 3.

Admission to “Prince: Before the Rain” is included with regular History Center admission of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, veterans/active military and college students, $6 ages 5 to 17 and free ages 4 and under and Minnesota History Society members.

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