GV alum happy to see ArtPrize work returned


Courtesy / ArtPrize

Jamie Wilson, Staff Writer

Kenn Vidro, an artist and GVSU alumni featured in ArtPrize this year, is happy to have one of his pieces back on display in good condition after it went missing for 24 hours.

The painting, called “Pop Goes GR,” is a collection of five four-by-four canvases covered with what Vidro refers to as “Fan art.” Vidro said that the familiar characters in his work are pictured invading the city of Grand Rapids.

The heroines in one painting are posing in front of the Gerald Ford Museum, while characters from the Avengers, as well as Batman and Spiderman, take over the Calder Plaza on the next canvas. The alien creatures of another painting are spotted invading the Van Andel Arena, while video game characters like Mario and Pokémon pop up in front of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. A miscellaneous group of characters, ranging from Scooby-Doo to Rick and Morty, are painted on the outskirts of the city.

While each piece is a creative world of its own, they are all very important pieces of the creative story being told in the collection, Vidro said. The familiar characters from everyone’s childhood are strategically placed in some of Grand Rapid’s most valued places, allowing the viewers to personally connect with the art. This cute invasion, with its popping colors and intricate details, lights up the faces of those who experience it. 

Vidro said it’s important to him that his work is big, bright and bold because he believes the color of the paintings alone can be inspirational. 

When Vidro arrived at Artprize on Saturday morning he was surprised to see one of his middle pieces missing. The piece pictured Alien Life Forms (ALF), E.T., Yoda, and other fantastical creatures. 

“I assumed aliens had beamed it up to an unknown location,” Vidro said.

Fortunately for Earth, the abduction was not alien, but rather, partiers. Vidro said he was approached by a GR police officer at his venue Sunday afternoon with news of a lead. A party host reported a missing painting to GRPD that morning, claiming he awoke to see the painting in his residence without any knowledge of it being there previously. 

He described his art as a “Whimsical view of pop culture,” taking characters of which he’s a fan and creating his own unique version of them. In order to develop each character fully and give them life, Vidro researches each character to highlight their individual quirks.

The GR police officer and Vidro went together to the residence to verify the painting was the missing piece of “Pop Goes GR.” 

“When I arrived with (the) officer I was happy to be reunited,” Vidro said.

The painting, though slightly scratched and splashed with beer, was able to be restored and is now hanging at Mojo’s Dueling Piano Bar with the rest of the collection. 

In addition to his work featured at artfest this year, Vidro has been a long-time artist and creator. He has created and self-published a number of riddle and tongue twister books. Before his retirement, Vidro also worked as an art instructor in Rockford Public Schools.

Despite the stress of having something so valued by the community and so passionately created stolen, Vidro is optimistic and excited to have a happy ending to what he described as “One crazy story.”