Repaving a Way for Art

Artist’s Profile– Couple Used Artprize to Spread Awareness

By: Shelby Pendowski

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GRAND RAPIDS – Love bug. No, not the overly compassionate couple cuddled in the corner booth testing the gag reflects of fellow diners. No, not a critter with the ability to inspire goosebumps and premature hairs to rise off the neck with a single touch of its tantalizing feelers. The Volkswagen Beatle, which made its debut during a time of rights rallies and fights for injustice, symbolizing hope, peace and love.


Over the generations, the VW Bug shaped-shifted to a more modern complexion; but, artists Todd Ramquist and his wife, Kiaralinda, felt the beauty of one particular 1974 bug. A love bug coated in its original bright-shag-carpet-putrid green paint, posing no resemblance to the iconic ladies-man Herby, held all the inspiration of the couple’s Artprize entry, “Artsurprize.” A puzzle of hand-bent wire incases the glossy shell, with swirls, curves and loops of thousands of hearts, flowers and gems.


“We just always knew we wanted to do a car. We have never done a car with wire on it,” Todd Ramquist said, eyes agleam in the direction of the bug.


Even though Artprize brought the couple 1,264 miles from Safe Harbor, Flor., the importance of art is what keeps their wheel turning.Artist 5 last image


A recent award of $50,000 from Pepsi Refresh, help the couple and fellow board member Heather Richardson to sustain the Safe Harbor Art and Music Center. SHAMc, a nonprofit organization, provides the opportunity for art to breath in a time of budget cut suffocation; when, money, politics and science weigh heavier then creativity.


The center allows for children and members of the community to let their creativity flow through various projects, concerts and murals. But, without each unique art car, the many hand withered pieces and the perseverance spewing from Todd and Kiaralinda, SHAMc would cease to exist.


“Up there, look at that car,” called an impatient child to her mother. “Will you take a picture?” asked the smitten couple to the nameless face. “Nothing better than a Volkswagen” commented the elderly man as he lay his withered hand upon the car. The regular commentary buzzing from the hive of visiting individuals is more than discussion; it is awareness said Kairalinda Ramquist as she watched her husband fiddle with the metal piece to the puzzle.


Gabbing with the art enthusiasts is just polish on the hood for this couple, who just want to keep the pulse of art beating like it did in the time of peace, love and harmony.


“In a lot of communities across the country art and music is way out of the school systems,” said Todd Ramquist. “When we grew up we had art everyday and music everyday so we think it is super important as artists to try to fill that gap in a way.”