Lawrence artist Stan Herd's response to Cuba was "primal," said a friend who went to the island with him.
"Stan was floored. I don't really have a good adjective to capture all the feelings that seemed to be going through him," said Bob Augelli. "But his reactions tended to be more primal in nature. Like oh wow, oh my God. It took a while for him to get to the adjective level."
Augelli, also of Lawrence, is project director for the Rosa Blanca project.
Herd, with the help of a Cuban crew, is constructing a large landscape work depicting a white rose in Havana's Parque Metropolitano. Augelli said the work is now 70 percent complete.
Rosa Blanca is the title of a poem by Cuban patriot Jose Marti.
Herd, Augelli, and Kory Brinkerhoff, another Lawrence man involved, returned this week from Cuba after five days of work on Rosa Blanca. Herd was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.
It was the first time in Cuba for Herd and Brinkerhoff. Augelli has been there several times. The trio plans to return in early December to complete the work and begin preparations for a larger depiction of Jose Marti to be built at the mouth of Havana harbor.
"Although we haven't been given a firm commitment, the proposal at this point is for them to give us an area close to the entrance to Havana harbor," Augelli said. "It will become an instant landmark; not just for the city of Havana but for the country of Cuba. For those that know Havana harbor, it will be approximately halfway between the opening of the harbor and the statue of Christ."
The Cuban government supplied workers and materials to assist with the Rosa Blanca project. Lawrence residents have contributed cash to underwrite travel and other expenses for Herd and his Lawrence crew.
Augelli said the Kansans benefited from a break in the weather.
"Since this is hurricane season, Havana had rain two weeks solid before our arrival," he said. "We were informed the site was 1.5 feet under water. The first day we went to the field it was sunny, but they recommended we do a little Santeria ceremony, which we did. That consisted of getting a bottle of rum and spraying from your mouth a shot of rum onto the ground beseeching the assistance of the saints.
"Here's the amazing thing: We had absolutely perfect weather the whole time we were there ... never rained once. They kept saying, 'See, it worked.' Sure enough, the day after we stopped working it started raining again."
Augelli said the goal of forging a bond between Cubans and Kansans was realized.
"They all know about Lawrence, Kansas, now and would like very much to come up and visit us," he said. "We'd very much like to do a project where we invite these fine craftsmen and artisans up here to share their works with us."