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Erica Sutherlin to take the reins at thestudio@620

Bill DeYoung

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Bob Devin Jones and Erica Sutherlin. Photo provided.

Bob Devin Jones plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of thestudio@620, the art gallery and performance space he co-founded, with a lengthy series of celebratory programs during 2024.

The main event, which he announced several months ago, will be his exit, stage left. Jones will officially retire at the end of June.

Replacing Jones as Artistic Executive Director will be Erica Sutherlin, a longtime prime mover in St. Petersburg’s theater circles. Sutherlin, who until recently served as Director of Community Engagement at American Stage, will step into Jones’ shoes July 1, following six months of “shadowing” to see how he makes things happen the way he does.

“I am super excited, in a way that I can’t even put into words,” said Sutherlin, who directed American Stage’s acclaimed production of Ragtime last spring, among many others for the theater company. “I’m excited for all the possibilities. I love the community.

“When I moved here back in ’08, I made the decision to invest in the community because I believe in it. I love the direction in which we are growing, and I wanted to be a part of that wave and not behind it.”

She acted in her first local production, in Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, at thestudio@620.

Sutherlin taught theater at the Boys & Girls Clubs center at the Royal Theatre, spent six years on the faculty of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts and became the first Black director at St. Petersburg City Theatre.

She next spent several years in the Los Angeles film business – she directed the Lifetime TV movie Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas – and earned an MFA in Film and Television Production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The pandemic and its aftermath brought Sutherlin back to St. Petersburg. She directed Pass Over at thestudio@620 in the early months of 2022, and joined the staff of American Stage soon thereafter.

Moving over to thestudio@620 is important because of her deep and ongoing passion for community work.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize just how many nonprofits, and nonprofit art organizations that The Studio incubated,” she said. “FreeFall Theatre started at The Studio. Keep St. Pete Lit. It’s always been this mission and model of ‘The answer is always yes’ – and that’s a beautiful sentiment. And I stay with that sentiment.”

She and Jones like to joke around that Sutherlin’s version is “The answer is always yes, AND …”

“It is part of the heartbeat of the community, the whole community and the arts community. It’s a place where you can see professional, polished work, and it’s a place where you can see work in development. It’s a place where you can see ideas that just popped up – people wanted to execute it and see what it looks like.

“It really does lend the artists a platform – and a reasonable, affordable platform – to showcase or experience their art form. My job, and my goal, is to take the legacy of that and build on it and strengthen it. And do a re-introduction of The Studio into this new community that’s changed so much in the last few years.”

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    November 27, 2023at5:21 pm

    Thank you to Mr. Jones and welcome to Ms Sutherland.

  2. Avatar

    Carl

    November 27, 2023at4:59 pm

    Excellent succession plan.

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