Give Thanks For a Long-Awaited Grand Opening – SHAMcGiving in Safety Harbor

November 25, 2016 by JULIE GARISTO | MUSIC, PERFORMING ARTS, VISUAL ARTS
Todd and Kiaralinda Ramquist at a recent art festival. The couple are the driving force behind the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, also known as SHAMc.
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North Pinellas arts lovers have been gearing up for a long-awaited milestone this Turkey-Day weekend: SHAMcGivinG, which promises a creative Blitzkrieg and cornucopia of entertainment. (Click here for event schedule.)

SHAMcGivinG commemorates the grand opening of the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center, located just a block off Main Street in the quiet, oak-shaded hamlet by the bay.

Founded by Safety Harbor arts crusaders Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist, SHAMc, comprises a brightly painted 1921 bungalow and a two-story pavilion with 3-by-5-foot mirrored mosaic artworks covering the exterior. Wall-to-wall mirrored mosaics, cake molds, art panels created by volunteers, plus other “Whimzical” touches are featured — Kiaralinda even decorated the bathroom ceiling with plastic bottle caps. Other contributions include a colorful fence with slats personalized by members of the community.

The pavilion is a shiny, eclectic landmark born of Kiaralinda and Ramquist’s colorful and inventive aesthetic, first made public by way of the couple’s home, known as Whimzey Land, aka the Bowling Ball House, five blocks away. Friends and neighbors have helped decorate and landscape both properties.

The house, featured on HGTV and MTV’s Extreme Cribs, is “an encrusted shrine of all things about our life — and SHAMc will be one too,” Kiaralinda said when she started the project.

Presenting musicians locally and from across the nation has become a pastime and passion for Ramquist and Kiaralinda. They host the annual Songfest (which has raised funds for SHAMc) and brought in big names as well as underground favorites such as actor/arts activist Jeff Daniels, who performed an under-the-radar show to help raise money for SHAMc, as well as Michelle Shocked and Black Taxi.

Guest artists often stay across the street at Todd and Kiaralinda’s guest house, known as Casa Loco, a Mexican-themed home cottage that can be seen in the indie film — graced by the likes of megastar Alan Cumming — in the indie film Chu and Blossom, which screened at the Gasparilla Film Festival a few years ago.

Because the SHAMc project has been in the works over the better part of this past decade, many have wondered what’s been holding it up. The couple had raised enough money and even publicly said as much.

“Red tape is a perfect way to put it,” says Ramquist. Building permits for handicap ramps and other structural improvement whenever the funds were available.

“We had to do some changes in the building plan to be up for code in the event of a hurricane,” adds Ramquist. “We received our Certificate of Occupancy two weeks ago and have hosted a couple of soft openings and other events.”

Both Ramquist and Kiaralinda have on several occasions refused to take full credit for their accomplishments. “We’re the strength of our volunteers,” Kiaralinda said in a Creative Loafing interview a few years back.

Events for all ages will take place at SHAMc this weekend and from here on in, Ramquist says. Artist Todd Roach taught a class to kids 18 months to 3 years old in the new building this month. The crafty children painted elephants on a stick parade to be waved during a parade 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, which will also feature artsy umbrellas.

Other festivities over the holiday weekend include shows by some 21 live bands, a ribbon cutting on Saturday morning followed by community mural painting.

Ramquist says he was approached by a 12-year-old boy who belonged to a group of poets and rappers. The enterprising tween asked him if there is there any chance he can could put on a show at SHAMc.

“I said yes and told him that I had to get with my board members for approval,” Ramquist shares.

When asked how much it would cost, Ramquist told him the young rapper/poet that the event would be free if the board approved.

“His eyes lit up!” Ramquist beamed. “That’s the whole idea — to make SHAMc a creative community space. We encourage everyone to us write to us and tell us what they’d like to see happening here.”

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