After a year of less than inspiring Instagram photos, a new Tampa Bay area tour may be the perfect opportunity for some unique selfies. Florida is home to plenty of one-of-a-kind homes, but one of the most memorable is found in Safety Harbor.
What started as a small folk art display painted on a handful of bowling balls has expanded over the years to become Whimzeyland, a kaleidoscope of art that now fills every inch of the residential property. It now includes multiple art cars, a guest house and numerous sculptures. The collection of bowling balls has expanded to more than 500, displayed in a custom gallery space. The house has become a destination for folk-art aficionados from around the world. (Check out more photos of the house, inside and out.)
Whimzeyland’s founders, Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda, founded the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMc) as part of an art collective in 2017 to help bring more art to the community. The art and music center is a 10-minute walk from Whimzeyland and provides a viable group space to augment the folk art residence. Like Whimzeyland, the SHAMc is covered in a celebration of art. A giant pink elephant, Elle, and a mirrored two-story building welcome visitors to SHAMc.
In 2015, Orlando Weekly’s sister paper Creative Loafing Tampa Bay praised SHAMc and the couple for their work in bringing art to Safety Harbor. The arts and music center is home to an annual music festival and a regular spot for many local musicians.
While traditional museums, like Orlando’s Mennello Museum of American Art, present individual pieces of folk art within a muted context, allowing each piece to shine, Whimzeyland is a full-immersion experience. Similar to other folk art destinations, such as Louisiana’s Abita Mystery House or California’s Salvation Mountain, Whimzeyland is a hypnotic space that functions as a celebration of the individual found-object art pieces, but can only be fully appreciated when those pieces are integrated together in the enveloping, ever-changing experience.
The house has been featured on many television series, including HGTV's Extreme Homes and Facebook's Most Incredible Homes. While it is a private residence, Whimzeyland welcomes visitors to explore the art-filled site. The lush tropical landscaping hides many of the art pieces across Whimzeyland, giving the space a mysterious feel that requires visitors to truly engage in order to discover each piece.
Now, in a push to bring awareness and support to both art destinations, Whimzeyland is opening to public tours. The tours, which take place at select times throughout the year, give groups a hands-on look at both folk-art wonderlands. This isn't the first time Whimzeyland has opened to the public, but tours now include both the residence and SHAMc that's a few blocks away. There are also more tour guides now, allowing for the tours to be offered more frequently.
Giant sculptures, such as a mosaic moon, will be available for photo ops along with fun props to enhance the photos. Also included in the tour are more rarely seen interior sections of Whimzeyland. From neon signs to a barber chair, the house's interior is just as full of found art as the exterior. Multicolored glass vases, stained glass panels, and bright murals bathe the space in color.
Proceeds from the tours support arts programming at SHAMc. Tour and ticket information can be found on the SHAMc website. Tickets are also sold through Airbnb Experiences. Reservations are also now open for three summer camp programs at SHAMc.
UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, tours do not include interior sections. The next tour will take place April 3.
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