Cuban Connection

New York City, Los Angeles-based neon shops combine on restoration project
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In a rare partnership, a New York City neon shop has agreed to work with Los Angeles-based Habana Light Neon + Signs (HLNS) to restore neon in Cuba. HLNS, a two-year-old neon signmaker and restoration shop, restores historic signs in Havana, using supplies and materials contributed by Let There Be Neon, whose founder, Rudi Stern, had a vision of “seeing neon flourish throughout the world,” according to President Jeff Friedman.

Those leading the partnership hope to spur Cuban creatives and entrepreneurs in restoring the country’s historic neon signs. These include artists such as Kadir López Nieves, who co-founded HLNS with Adolfo Nodal.

“This new relationship with Let There Be Neon will greatly increase our capacity to reach a critical mass of restorations that will make all the difference in showing results for the everyday citizen[s] on the street, who are the prime beneficiaries of our work,” Nodal said.

The partnership comes at a critical transition point for US relations with Cuba, which have warmed in recent years with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, opening of a US Embassy in Cuba, and removal of the country from the US’ State Sponsors of Terrorism List in 2015, among other measures. With the easing of travel restrictions, US tourist dollars have also begun to flow.

But that doesn’t mean this project has been easy. Nodal told the Los Angeles Times that the primary hurdle for restorations in Havana is cash flow: Each sign costs $700-3,000 to restore. To wit, HLNS is accepting contributions through its Adopt a Sign Program. Learn more at smore.com/29cnr-pick-a-sign-to-restore.

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