Flower Power Ellie stands, in all her glorious pinkness, at the corner of 2nd Street N and 7th Avenue N in Safety Harbor, welcoming all to the “Grandest Opening Ever” of the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center (SHAMc) – a three day celebration last weekend. Created a couple of years ago by local artist Kumpa Tawornprom, Ellie is the center’s mascot – a visual magnet that draws people to SHAMc for a closer look at the impressive structure behind her.
The day after Thanksgiving marked the first day of SHAMc’s opening weekend and the public was invited to a community potluck that fed many people throughout the late afternoon. Artfully decorated, the long outdoor table was constantly filled with guests enjoying the shared offerings of turkey, ham, potatoes, squash, pies, cookies and much more.
All you need is “LOVE”. That could be the theme of SHAMc’s opening weekend, symbolized by this giant lighted wire sculpture made by artists Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist, the Center’s creators. The colorful blinking work, standing against the fence in the center’s backyard, was probably the most photographed piece, as everyone stopped to take a selfie or group picture in front of it, throughout the weekend.
Music filtered into the back patio area at SHAMc, from the stage in the impressive open, two-story “ODDitorium”, as night fell and the lights came on. A bar, with generous donations from local Crooked Thumb Brewery, added to the outdoor attractions at the opening celebration, and everywhere you looked, there was color and art, from the mural painted walls to the many mosaic panels covering the Center’s exterior.
Artists Bruce A. Niemi and his wife Suzi Niemi were among the many people who participated in the umbrella parade through the streets of Safety Harbor at last Saturday’s opening festivities. Posing here with their decorated parasols, the couple, who are longtime friends of Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist, traveled from Kenosha, WI, to be part of their friends’ realized vision. Bruce also created a sculpture for the center and it was unveiled during the weekend. It is on loan to SHAMc for a year and if it sells during that time, part of the proceeds will be donated to the center.
Winding its way through the streets of Safety Harbor in front of the long Umbrella Parade, “Puff”, a 30 foot dragon, was a collaborative creation by the area Garden Fairies – Siobhan Nehin, Beth Warmath, Terri Gray, Shannon O’leary-Beck, Ruth Bebensee, Bonnie L. Bowman and Adrianne Butler, with artistic and technical help from Kumpa Tawornprom.
All smiles and laughter, the trio of (left to right) Heather Richardson, Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda welcomed the public to the opening ceremony for the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center and thanked a host of people and organizations that made SHAMc possible. After more than four years of planning, building, fundraising and dreaming, it’s a place to host musical concerts, read poetry, stage performance art, teach classes, collaborate, sell creations, unite the artistic community and especially to share all of it with the broader public.
ART is literally at the center of Earth, as this appropriately decorated umbrella suggests. After the parade, many of the colorful, lighted works of parasol art were on display, some for sale to benefit SHAMc.
A group of friends shows their ingenuity by mirroring the LOVE sculpture at SHAMc with a human letter equivalent, during the opening weekend celebration in Safety Harbor.
Participation is one of the key elements to the SHAMc vision, and with that in mind, the public was invited to pick up a brush and contribute a dab or three to a brightly colored mural on the side of Cello’s Char-House which is next to the art center. Local artist Kumpa Tawornprom created the design and Katie Bush (center on ladder) spent most of the weekend organizing the “volunteer” painters, young and old alike.
Nancy Mitchell (far right), a renown local cake baker/decorator of Sweets by the Bay, created an incredible, edible replica of Ellie and the SHAMc buildings, as the celebratory cake for the Center’s opening last weekend. The rainbow, chocolate and red velvet cakes were sliced up and served to everyone who came to the festivities. Pictured here doing the official cutting are (left to right) Dan “Woody” Carlson (Dunedin builder for the center), Heather Richardson, Todd Ramquist, Kiaralinda, and Grant Genova ( Pouch Cove Newfoundland architect who designed the center).
Another way to get everyone involved in creating art and being a contributor to SHAMc, was to provide several mosaic boards and bins full of ceramic tile pieces during the opening weekend. Many people stopped by to place a few shapes, often pondering complimentary colors and admiring the emerging work. The completed pieces will be incorporated into the center and will be on display for all the “artists” to take credit.
Not your ordinary concert setting, the SHAMc “ODDitorium” is an impressive and acoustically awesome venue – wide open and high vaulted, yet intimate, comfortable and, like everything at the Center, colorful and artful. Victor & Penny from Kansas City, MO, was one of many acts performing throughout the opening weekend. Many future performances are already scheduled for this stage, making it an important area venue for the arts.