Whimsical Christmas house promotes peace a thousand times over

By Catriona Stuart, Times staff writer
Published December 14, 2007

Peace on Earth, Peace by Piece

Where: 1206 Third St. in Safety Harbor

When: Dec. 17-Jan. 1; grounds open all day; lights are on from 6-10 p.m. daily

Cost: Donations accepted; the funds raised will go to a Burmese orphanage

Parking: Is anywhere you can find, but be polite to the neighbors


Using a YouTube video, a few dozen e-mails and some strong envelopes, two low-tech artists have transformed their Safety Harbor home into a holiday tribute to peace on Earth.

Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda, both 47, put out their call less than two months ago:

Take an old Tyvek envelope, cut it in half and create your own homage to peace inside. Tape the envelope back up, drop it in the mailbox and voila, a piece of mail art is born.

Word spread quickly as messages went out over electronic list-serves, and their YouTube video racked up hits. Then the flags started to arrive. They came slowly at first, then by the dozen, sometimes filling their mailbox with more than 50 a day.

Each flag will become part of an outdoor holiday installation called "Peace on Earth, Peace by Piece." The installation opens Monday at the house at 1206 Third St. N in Safety Harbor and will run until the New Year.

Under a canopy of gold mylar and white Christmas lights hang dozens of the homemade art pieces. There are colorful photo collages, pieces of fabric sewn into intricate messages and traditional peace symbols that float on clouds of color.

So far the Whimzey Twinz, as Ramquist and Kiaralinda often call themselves, have received close to 1,000 flags from places such as Burma, Sudan and Israel.

"It makes getting the mail every day pretty interesting," Ramquist said.

A few have a less exotic provenance, like the 68 submitted by the entire third-grade class at Carrollwood Day School in Carrollwood.

"The program is building a world consciousness on both a local and world level," said third-grade teacher Susan Reiss, who got her school involved in the project. "This fit in with what we teach the kids."

Ramquist and Kiaralinda have been creating their holiday installations since the 1990s. One was dedicated to raising money for rebuilding after Hurricane Andrew, another for Katrina. Visitors to the installations are encouraged to leave a donation if they are moved to, but it's not necessary.

This year, they were inspired by a trip to Burma just after the recent pro-democracy protests. They wanted this holiday installation to have a message, Kiaralinda said. And in fact, the money raised this year will go to a Burmese orphanage.

"Doing a Christmas house, that's not really how people would put peace on Earth out there," Kiaralinda said. "But we live in a house called Whimzey, so the things we do are not usually very serious.