A house in Safety Harbor, Florida has become more than a building; is a work of art that has been growing for over 35 years.
The brains behind the operation are Todd and Kiaralinda Ramquist, and they call it Whimzey Land.
“It’s like entering the mind of an artist”.
It’s not a line from the movie, but it came out of the mouth of a well-known actor who plays a side musician.
Jeff Daniels used those words to describe Whimzeyland in Safety Harbor, which is owned, operated and also inhabited by Todd and Kiaralinda Ramquist.
Tucked away in the quiet neighborhoods surrounding the downtown Florida neighborhood, Whimzeyland is literally what that house is called, though you may not know what that means.
“When we were starting out, ‘whimsical’ was a word people used to describe that art style. Fun, playful, colorful. So we started making our home like that,” laughed Kiaralinda.
For over 35 years, Todd and Kiaralinda have traveled around the world, collecting art, listening to live music and participating in humanitarian aid.
“We’ve been together since the seventh grade,” Todd said.
The house is the first house they bought in 1987. At the time, it was just beige or brown which I quickly realized wasn’t a color of their rainbow.
As they traveled to different art exhibitions, they began trading with other artists and bringing those materials home. The first time they dressed the house was for Christmas. Then, as they traveled more and more, Kiaralinda started bringing back ideas to dress up the house even more.
Today, after three different color palettes, the house has become something not to be missed.
“The third incarnation was peach, teal and azalea, and then I painted each surface a different color. I mean, each surface is a different color,” Kiaralinda said with a huge smile.
When I turned onto the street, the first thing I saw was the big smiley face. How could you not smile when you see something like this coming towards you?
You walk through a jester’s entrance that looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland as you walk through it. It’s filled with their art, other people’s art, a geocache, a SpongeBob from an event they held years ago, painted bowling balls, and, among other things, magic.
It’s free for anyone who has passed by and you don’t have to worry about bothering the Ramquists.
They might be leaving, maybe arriving, but having a place that thousands of visitors stop by on a particular day is sometimes something you can tell they like it.
“We built it for ourselves, but the rest of the world comes to us, which is pretty weird, but we like it,” said Kiaralinda.
The fantasy doesn’t stop at their home though. Their love for art and music spreads throughout the community.
Todd and Kiaralinda have started the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center (SHAMC) just five blocks away. It is a place for community art exhibitions. Live music and, above all, fun.
“People always think we work, but we don’t really work. We do things here, we do things at the art center. We just like to have fun,” Todd said.
Around Safety Harbor you can see their signature everywhere. Glass panels flank the community center. They painted the skate park. The side of one of the convenience stores also has a mural with the name of the city.
Back in Whimzeyland, there’s a guesthouse you can stay in if you’re looking to get those “creative juices” flowing. The couple had singers and songwriters who were only there to write songs.
They have contacts in the music business that have helped them secure “mysterious music guests” to their shows. I can’t say who because it would spoil the mystery.
When Todd showed us how he creates their “whimsical harness”, which is something they sell at art shows and on the website, he folds that thread into a word that I think ends the whole story. At least for me.
Their love of art, music and community is as vivid as the colors Whimzeyland paint, and it’s something the whole world could use.
“We know we have an impact on what happens in this city. Maybe nobody cares, but we care that we have an impact there. We just want people to have a good day when they come to Safety Harbor,” Kiaralinda said with a smile. .
For more information visit kiaralinda.com.