Happy place

Long-awaited cultural arts center nears completion in Safety Harbor.

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click to enlarge Safety Harbor couple Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist, founders of SHAMc, on a recent visit to the building site. “There’s been a lot of collaboration here,” Todd said. - Mitzi Gordon
Mitzi Gordon
Safety Harbor couple Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist, founders of SHAMc, on a recent visit to the building site. “There’s been a lot of collaboration here,” Todd said.

A $50,000 grant planted the seed. Another anonymous donation made sure it grew.

In 2011, Safety Harbor couple Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist won a $50,000 grant from the philanthropic Pepsi Refresh Project. Gaining an additional $55,000 from an anonymous donor, by 2012 the pair stood poised to break ground on their dream of building an art and music center for their cozy shoreside city.

Four years and more than $250,000 into the project, their efforts appear poised to bloom in full. The twosome expects the completed Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, nicknamed SHAMc, to open by April.

“It’s a happy place,” said volunteer Jan Stiffler, who helped craft hundreds of brilliant mirrored mosaics for the building. “Todd and Kiaralinda have opened up so many opportunities for people to make art and get involved.”


click to enlarge Concrete pours in progress at SHAMc earlier in January. Photo courtesy Safety Harbor Art and Music Center. - SHAMc
SHAMc
Concrete pours in progress at SHAMc earlier in January. Photo courtesy Safety Harbor Art and Music Center.
The couple shared an update during a recent visit to the construction site at 706 2nd St. N., where the concrete just hardened on freshly poured sidewalks and parking pads (for which they said the city of Safety Harbor will reimburse them about $20,000.)

SHAMc suffered a series of construction delays during the past few years as it inched through the city’s engineering review process. Eager to open their doors, Todd and Kiaralinda said the last few weeks have seen some of the biggest steps forward, and they’re carefully ticking off a checklist for the certificate of occupancy.

“Getting it built is the hard part,” Kiaralinda said. In many ways, the core art center already functions through other spaces, with concerts and meetings taking place at the couple’s nearby SideShow venue, and volunteer-driven art projects and fundraisers being hosted at their folk art Whimzey House.

SHAMc will condense all that activity under one big tin roof. With a footprint of roughly 2,700 square feet, the art and music center straddles three flexible spaces, including the 100-year-old Rigsby House bungalow, a newly constructed two-story music pavilion with open-air exterior, and a renovated guest house for artists and musicians in residence.

click to enlarge Boards anchor newly poured concrete outside the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, set to open in April 2016 after a string of construction delays. - Mitzi Gordon
Mitzi Gordon
Boards anchor newly poured concrete outside the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, set to open in April 2016 after a string of construction delays.
A vast community of support has grown up alongside the facility, designed as a cultural meeting place and creative resource center that will host classes, concerts, and exhibitions. At the outset, SHAMc will depend on that volunteer base to run in a co-operative style.

According to Stiffler, there won’t be a problem filling the sign-up sheet.

“Whatever they need [at SHAMc], most of the volunteers will just drop everything and go, if they’re able,” she said. “That’s why it’s so exciting. It’s just a great spot in the community.”

The balance of funds for buildout was raised primarily through individual donations of $10 or $20, making the nonprofit center a standout candidate for most crowdfunded arts project in the county.

“It all adds up,” Todd said. “Someone who gives you $10 out of their pocket might be most committed to your vision.”

Two upcoming events continue the string of artistic “parties for a purpose” raising funds for the nonprofit center’s future offerings.

On February 5, Women Helping Others hosts a potluck-style gathering at Whimzey House to help pay for a glass garage door inside the music pavilion. And the weekend of April 2 and 3 marks the third annual Safety Harbor SongFest, the center’s major fundraiser, a celebration of nationally acclaimed music and playful art set along picturesque Old Tampa Bay in Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park. Weekend fest passes cost $40, with an early bird price of $35 (good through January 31.)

Stiffler sees SHAMc as a sound investment and a strong draw for locals and tourists alike. “It’s going to be a hub in Safety Harbor,” she said. “People are already pulling over just to take photos, and it isn’t even open yet.”

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