Emma Balázs is originally from Australia and has worked in the arts all her life, as filmmaker, arts educator, arts manager and curator in Melbourne, Chicago, Singapore and New York. She has worked at Columbia University School of the Arts as Director of Visual Arts and Curator of the Neiman Gallery, and has held teaching positions in Arts Management at Columbia University, La Salle College of the Arts and SUNY Purchase. She has an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she focused on Collaborative Curatorial Practices. She recently completed her PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
MY PRINCE STORY
Prince was my secret soul friend all my life. From the moment I first encountered his music when I was 12, my soul lit up in his presence. I was a young artist stranded in a country town in Australia, and Prince represented the full possibility of life as a romantic, creative spirit. Over the years I wasn't an ardent fan, but I always felt strangely close somehow, and every year or so I would check in to see how he was doing. When he died, my heart cracked open. His death utterly changed my life. In New York City, Purple Rain started playing two days after he died. I sat in screening after screening in the following weeks, for it was as close as I could get to his presence. It was a safe, dark, glowing space for inexplicably deep grieving. In that space, as I grieved for him and grappled with the reality of death and its meaning, Prince forced me to assess how I had lived all the years since I first encountered him. I had to account to myself as a deeply inspired 14 year old who saw this film in 1984, who now seemed to be sitting beside me in the cinema asking me what I had done with my life. But it wasn't enough to sit in the cinema. I hired a dance studio and danced it out, week after week processing, listening, moving, dancing out my life and living in the mystery of this artist’s strong presence. This still wasn't enough. I realized I was going to need to do something more to honor Prince and his impact on my life, as surely I wasn't alone in this. All kinds of weird and cosmic things were happening at this time that would sound crazy to describe.
Meanwhile, since the day Prince died, I followed every tribute posting and every news article daily, obsessively. I plunged into deep research into Prince’s life, catching up on all the music I missed, all the life information I could gather. Nothing was irrelevant, I needed everything I could read, find, listen to that might help me understand what was going on. After wrestling for a few months, I finally listened to my heart and followed Prince’s call to Minneapolis. In Minneapolis I met so many people who shared Prince stories with me, and I felt welcomed into a place that was full of love and respect for this man. I did my own personal pilgrimage to every home and site I could find associated with Prince and I continued my research. Around that time I refocussed my PhD to Prince so I could dedicate myself further to this project. As I carefully studied the wild scenes around his emerging legacy and as I experienced the commercial approach of Paisley Park as museum, I realized my best contribution would be drawing on my background in the arts to create a space for people to pay tribute to Prince's personal impact on their lives. After months of skipping between New York and Minneapolis, I quit my teaching job and moved to Minneapolis. A couple of weeks later, on the anniversary of Prince’s death, in the intense blur of tribute events, and after a lifetime of being single, I fell deeply in love.