SHAMc grand opening a weekend to remember in Safety Harbor

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SHAMc cofounders Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda (center), along with artist Heather Richardson and contractor Dan ‘Woody’ Carlson, cut the cake during the facility’s grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

Safety Harbor artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda, founders of the Safety Harbor Songfest and owners of Whimzeyland, a.k.a the “bowling ball house,” hosted the long awaited grand opening of their Safety Harbor Art and Music Center over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the event, dubbed SHAMcGivinG–the Grandest Opening EVER!, definitely made for a weekend to remember in Safety Harbor.

The three-day event was five years in the making, and the culmination of the long journey featured musicians and artists, a Thanksgiving dinner for 60 and an umbrella parade around the downtown district, plus a sculpture dedication, poetry readings, a community mural project and one of the most magnificent cakes you will ever see.

In all it made for an incredible weekend in the Harbor, one that was a long time coming, but well worth the wait.

SHAMc cofounder Todd Ramquist speaks at the center's grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

SHAMc cofounder Todd Ramquist speaks at the center’s grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

“It’s been 1,650 days since we broke ground,” Ramquist said to the crowd that gathered at the 7th Avenue facility for the opening ceremony Saturday afternoon. “But who’s counting?!”

Ramquist, who along with longtime partner Kiaralinda, won a $50,000 grant from Pepsi in 2011 that helped jumpstart the SHAMc collective’s effort to build the center, went on to thank those who helped make their dream of creating an art and culture hub in Safety Harbor a reality.

“It’s been a giant community effort, beginning when we received the Pepsi grant,” Ramquist said. “From everyone who has been involved before we broke ground, to our core of 30 people and the 200 or more others who helped…we’re just happy this day is finally here.”

Happy was the operative word over the weekend, as the grand opening was highlighted by a theme of hope, positivity and joy.

From the faces of the dozens of kids, adults and adult kids who participated in repainting the iconic mural on the side of neighboring Cello’s Charhouse restaurant and the colorful umbrellas, costumes and characters in the parade, to the heartfelt words of artist Bruce Niemi and the moving lyrics of musician Gareth Asher, there were plenty of positive vibes flowing through the downtown district over the weekend.

Wisconsin artist Bruce Niemi poses with his stainless steel sculpture, the Power of 3 II, at the SHAMc grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

Wisconsin artist Bruce Niemi poses with his sculpture, the Power of Three II, at the SHAMc grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

“The power of three is perfection,” Niemi, a Wisconsin-based artist, said while unveiling his stainless-steel sculpture, the Power of Three II, during the ceremony.

“If you made a rope of people, use one person and the rope breaks,” he explained. “Two people make it stronger, but it still can break. But with three, it’s virtually impossible. And with Todd and Kiaralinda and Heather (Richardson), the power of three is very strong here in Safety Harbor.”

Niemi went on to explain that his creation, which is on loan to the center for a year, is intended to be “spiritually uplifting and ambiguous that urges you to think and use your imagination.”

After his speech, Niemi spoke about the power of Todd and Kiaralinda’s influence on him as well as other artists.

“Todd and Kiaralinda have been a huge influence on me,” he told Safety Harbor Connect. “They’ve helped me loosen up in my work, and so I wanted to give something back to them as a way to say thanks for everything that they’ve done for me as well as other artists.”

Singer songwriter Gareth Asher of Atlanta played a moving song during the SHAMc grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

Singer songwriter Gareth Asher of Atlanta played a moving song during the SHAMc grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

Asher, a Songefest veteran who played the same song on Saturday that he played at the center’s groundbreaking ceremony, said he was amazed to see the transformation.

“I knew then this would be something grand, but I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “To see where this started to where it’s come today, it’s amazing,”

“I think this building is going to become a magnet for artists and musicians from all over the country,” Asher added. “It’s kind of putting Safety Harbor on the map for musicians.”

Following the ceremonial cutting of the cake, a magnificent and completely edible replica of the center, complete with Ellie the pink elephant, created by Nancy Mitchell, the SHAMc founders spoke to Safety Harbor Connect about the of the long-awaited and much anticipated grand opening.

“It’s been awesome, even better than I expected,” Kiaralinda, who teared up a couple of times during the ceremony, said.

“It’s been a long time coming, but now that the doors are open, real things can start happening here. The possibilities are endless.”

Safety harbor artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda at the grand opening of their Safety harbor Art and Music Center on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

Safety Harbor artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda at the grand opening of their Safety Harbor Art and Music Center on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2016.

“It felt good to see people inside enjoying the space,” Ramquist said. “And it was great to meet people who we’re seeing the building for the first time.”

“I think now that we have a public stage, that will make a big difference,” he added, noting the collective has big plans for the facility, including concerts, classes, meetings and an artist-in-residence program.

“Everybody is super excited it’s open and to see what’s going to happen here, and we’re super excited the day is finally here!”

Here’s a look at some of the sights from the SHAMcGivinG–the Grandest Opening EVER!:

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