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ArtPrize exhibit honors fallen Kalamazoo officer

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Exhibits for this year’s ArtPrize range from a variety to topics and materials. One piece of art in the window of the Grand Rapids Police Department is helping the family of a fallen officer keep their loved one’s memory alive.

“He was a simple person a dad, a police officer, a father, a son. He had it all,” said Connie Bernal.

Connie Bernal said that following her son Eric Zapata’s death in 2011, the outpouring of support from the law enforcement community has been overwhelming.

Arturo Araujo’s brother worked with Zapata at the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, and still remembers the night he was killed. Araujo said that he called his brother to make sure he was safe.

“My next question was, who was it? And he said, ‘You remember that guy that used to put pennies in my boots that I always told you about?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ And he was like,’ It was him.’ It was something very tragic that affected my brother and all of the police department,” said Araujo.

Araujo decided he wanted to honor Aapata through his drawings,  so he spent several hours learning about Zapata the man, to make sure it came through in his art.

“At first I was kind of like, really? Okay, I have time. Do you have time? So he came to my house. Not only once, but a couple different times and we sat down like we had known each other for years,” said Bernal.

Araujo completed the drawing, using only pencil.  After about six months of work, the drawing is now a popular attraction at this year’s ArtPrize.

“It makes me feel awesome. It makes me feel like the 250 plus hours that I put into it, were for something and it’s working. People are getting close and getting to know Eric,” said Araujo.

“I couldn’t stay in a room more than 5 minutes. The eyes were like following me, and I started to choke and I said, you know what? I need to leave the room,” said Araujo.

The drawing will be in the window of the Grand Rapids Police Department until October 12th.







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