Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to take a walk through Prince: The Immersive Experience

By Kamy Smelser, News Editor

A recreation of the set of Prince’s 1984 album and film cover “Purple Rain” includes a photo opportunity for people to ride the iconic motorcycle. Irvin Ibarra

Walking into one of the interactive spaces at Prince: The Immersive Experience, guests are invited into a replica of Prince’s Purple Rain album cover with a black motorcycle sitting in front of a dimly lit building. Smoke fills the room where guests can sit atop the iconic motorcycle and rev the engine as if they were the award-winning artist, Prince.

“I hope [Prince: The Immersive Experience] celebrates who he was. That to me is the biggest thing, is celebrating Prince and all facets of who he was,” said Stephen Feener, chief project officer of Superfly, the production company of Prince: The Immersive Experience. Feener was also a security guard for Prince during the Purple Rain tour from 1984 to 1985.

The experience debuted June 9 at 540 N. Michigan Ave. and will be open in Chicago until Oct. 9 bringing guests of all ages into the world of Prince through 10 multidimensional spaces.

As guests walk through the experience, they are taken through a timeline of Prince’s life and work as a musician including his Paisley Park workspace and studio, Studio A. An interactive soundboard sits at the front of the room with large dials and sliders allowing visitors to mix Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy.”

One of Prince’s real guitars on display at Prince: The Experience, his 1991 cloud guitar, is just one of the guitars custom made for the Minneapolis native. Irvin Ibarra

“[The experience] is definitely more interactive, a little more tech,” said Feener. “Hearing your favorite Prince song as you’re walking through this and the difference that music adds, to me, music adds that extra energy.”

In partnership with Bose and Prince’s lighting designer, Roy Bennett, the experience features an audiovisual room with thoughtfully designed colorful lights where visitors can dance along with a live DJ playing Prince’s top hits.

“It’s super cool for people who know a little bit about Prince or know a lot about Prince,” said Ava Butera, a senior art history major and part-time employee at the experience. “I think it’s super cool. He’s such an influential artist, he influenced lots of artists that we like listening to today.”

Along with celebrating the musician’s creativity and flamboyant artistry, the experience also tells of Prince’s work in fighting large record labels for artist rights and his efforts in raising awareness about police brutality and Black lives through music he released such as his song, “Dreamer.”

In 1993, Prince legally changed his name to his purple “love symbol” as a form of rebellion against his music publisher Warner Brothers; it’s part of the display at Prince: The Immersive Experience. Irvin Ibarra

“I think that to me is very powerful, to know that he had that much foresight and how many barriers he started breaking down for other artists and other people,” Fenner said. “That’s probably the biggest impact I got is just how relevant he still is today on what he started back when he was an artist and trying to get his own rights back.”

After walking through the experience, visitors are invited to take a quiz at the end that asks them questions about their preferred genre of music, favorite Prince outfits and accessories incorporated into a Prince playlist that is specific to their interests.

“[I hope visitors gain] appreciation of what a talent [Prince is] and [gain] inspiration to go out there and listen to more of his music and watch videos of his live performances, get the energy of who Prince was,” Fenner said.