WATERLOO -- Paco Rosic has a cell phone plastered to his ear.

An ABC News editor pitches the idea of sending out someone from Washington, D.C., for an interview. While he speaks, text messages are flooding his phone as reporters and editors from across the globe clamor for call-backs. He's already been featured in the Los Angeles Times, on network TV morning shows, news and art Web sites and in one of Italy's leading newspapers.

Above Rosic's head, God reaches out to create the sun and the moon.

The media may make Rosic a star.

The artist has fulfilled a childhood dream to recreate Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the world's greatest works of art.

Michelangelo spent four torturous years (1508 to 1512) on the monumental undertaking, painting more than 400 larger-than-life scenes of mankind's origins and early history from the Bible in fresco -- painting on damp plaster -- on the ceiling of a Vatican chapel. He was 37 when he climbed down from the scaffolding.

Rosic, 27, spent four painful months this year on scaffolding, painting the same figures in nearly 1/2 scale, on the ceiling at 622 Commercial St.

With Krylon spray paint.

Nearly 2,000 cans, about $9,000 worth of the stuff.

Rosic's vividly beautiful recreation is stirring up a worldwide buzz.

"My life has changed. I wake up and have my coffee and look at all the phone messages, text messages I am receiving. I'm happy. It's good exposure, but sometimes I think it's a dream. I'm going to wake up and it is just a dream, but it is reality starting to sink in," Rosic says, smiling and apologizing for the nonstop phone calls.

The ceiling will be featured on the Tour de'Loo, Thursday evening's sneak peek of downtown Waterloo's revitalization projects.

Galleria de Paco and Coffee House is expected to open for business in about four weeks. Rosic, a Bosnian immigrant, purchased the building, formerly Toad's Treasures, in January. Rosic's dad, Jacky, has done much of the renovation work, and his mother, Anna, will run the kitchen.

A collection of reclining leather chairs will allow visitors to lean back to study the Sistine ceiling. A jazz and blues bar will open downstairs, complete with a marble mosaic floor and more Rosic art on the walls, along with other artists.

Rosic, a Bosnian immigrant, made his bones painting colorful graffiti on building walls, and later creating murals for gallery exhibitions and commissions. After a European vacation, he returned home inspired to adapt fine art techniques into graffiti art. By using a spray can as a paintbrush and layering on color, among techniques he uses, Rosic creates what appear to be oil paintings.

Rosic has dreamed of recreating the Sistine Chapel since age 6. "My friends tell me I have crazy ideas, but I believe everything is possible. I spent a few years looking for the right place."

Jacky Rosic knew his son's passion, but it wasn't until Paco painted a biblical scene on his dad's fence that he was convinced. Still, Jacky and Anna were practical about the big picture. "We first thought of opening just a gallery, but we weren't sure that would pay the bills. We would open a coffee shop, a place for people to stop and enjoy. Then plans changed again to have more art, food and drink and bring business downtown and tourists to see the ceiling."

Workers tore out the original ceiling and replaced it with a gently curved plaster ceiling. At its highest point, it arches 14 feet above the floor and left the artist 2,511 square feet of plaster canvas to paint.

The artist memorized Michelangelo's work. "You know how people read a book? Well, I read art. I read Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, because I needed to see where he started and where he ended. He was telling a story. It is such a difficult job to translate from the Bible to paint, and I had to learn that, learn his style."

There are fewer details due to the scale -- "and some things would look like blobs" -- but the overall enormity of the figures is intact. He worked without stencils or taping lines. It was all in his head and heart, Rosic says, and flowed in sweeping, broad strokes from spray cans held in his left hand.

Krylon is now a sponsor.

"Painting the columns I left until last, because those were hardest. The shadows and shape had to be exactly right," Rosic says. He spent 10 to 15 hours a day painting, mostly at night, protecting his lungs with a gas mask. "It hurt. … There were times when I couldn't lift my arms, and I was hunched over and shuffled to walk. My girlfriend is an acupuncturist, and that is what kept me going."

Viewing Rosic's homage may be the closest some visitors get to Rome and the real Sistine Chapel.

Now the media has gotten wind of it, visitors from around the country are popping in already to gaze in awe at the ceiling. Rosic seldom turns them away.

"People want to see, and we want to bring tourists here. We are American citizens now, and only in the USA could I do something like this. I appreciate the opportunties I have had and the support I've been given in this community."

Contact Melody Parker at (319) 291-1429 or melody.parker@wcfcourier.com.

Tour de'Loo, featuring downtown Waterloo revitilization projects including restaurants, night spots and residential lofts and condos, takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

The free trolly operates from 5 to 8:30 p.m. making a continuous loop of all locations. All sites are handicap accessible. The Elks Club will be open from 7 to 9 p.m., with refreshments and entertainment. Chucumbe will perform at 8 p.m. The ensmble is from the southern Veracruz region of Mexico and is internationally recognized as an interpreter and recreator of verse and dance. Valentina Martin will sign copies of her book, "Progress Toward Professionalism," a history of Waterloo/Cedar Falls Board of Realtors.

Drawings for door prizes takes place at 8:30 p.m. (must be present to win).

In addition to the Galleria de Paco and Coffee House, 622 Commercial St., with Paco Rosic's Sistine Chapel recreation, the tour also features:

-- The Fowler Building, 210-228 E. Fourth St., loft-style residences and businesses catering to the city's newly designated Cultural and Entertainment District;

-- Jameson's Public House, 308 E. Fourth St., an Irish Pub on the main level and Attitudes Dance by Aimee and offices on the upper floor.

-- Water Street Flats & Rowhouses, 900-1000 Water St.

-- Westfield Avenue Lofts, Winterbottom Supply

-- River Plaza Athletic Club & Cafe Fit, 10 W. Fourth St.

-- Oasis Condominium, 610 Jefferson St.

-- Elks Club, 507 E. Park Ave. The Elks Club is kicking off a campaign to restore the 1925 building.


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