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The Studio@620 enters a new phase

Bill DeYoung



Board members, shareholders and representatives from BayFirst National Bank celebrate the change in ownership for The Studio@620. Bob Devin Jones and Erica Sutherlin hold the ribbon-cutting scissors, Studio Managing Director Marcus Wheby is to Jones' left, while Chris Steinocher, President of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, stands to Sutherlin's right. Image: Chamber of Commerce, video screengrab.

St. Petersburg’s mixed-use nonprofit cultural center The Studio@620 (it’s an art gallery, a theater, a concert hall, a meeting venue and a performance space) will turn 20 this summer. Plans are in the works for a lengthy and significant legacy celebration of the facility – and of longtime artistic director Bob Devin Jones, who’s retiring effective June 20 (a.k.a. 6-20).

Jones was front and center Friday afternoon as 620 1st Avenue South was “re-dedicated” with a symbolic ribbon-cutting: Management has taken over ownership of the building.

In 2003, the property was purchased by a group of shareholders – spurred on by Jones and co-founder David Ellis – calling itself 620/622 LLC. “At that time, I don’t think anybody was thinking about what The Studio was going to become,” said Incoming Artistic Executive Director Erica Sutherlin, who’s working closely with Jones this year. “Or its longevity.”

Over two decades, however, The Studio@620 became a cornerstone of the city’s burgeoning cultural community, a place where anything creative that needed lights, sound or an attentive and appreciative audience could get produced – professional, amateur, or something in between. It became an incubator for spirited cultural collaboration. St. Petersburg realized The Studio@620 was a valuable resource.

Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, called it “St. Pete’s living room” during Friday’s brief ceremony.

Twenty years after its founding, Sutherlin said, “we were ready to move The Studio to the next level. And one of the ways of doing that is for us to purchase the building. There were people who were ready to cash out and get a little ROI on their investment. Some of our shareholders re-invested their shares, and BayFirst National Bank came aboard and helped us with the financing of the building.

“So while we’re paying off the mortgage, we own the building. I think people were really starting to go ‘Wow, we built a thing. This is a thing, and it should live on. How to we help it to live on, and make it sustainable?’”

The benefits of this move are significant, she explained. “Because we have purchased this building, it increases our operating budget. And because it increases our operating budget, it puts our annual budget in a higher bracket.

“And when you start looking at grants – depending on what grant it is, and where it’s coming from, there are different tiers you can apply for, different amounts of money. And the bigger your annual budget is, the more money you can apply for. For programming or operating costs.”

The “re-dedication” ceremony kicked off a busy weekend for The Studio@620. The annual Studio Honors fundraiser was held Friday and Saturday, consisting of a cocktail party Friday night, and the dinner and awards ceremony Saturday.

Honored at the sold-out Saturday event were Sheila and Matt Cowley, Mozell Davis, Roxanne Fay, Renee Flowers, Jason Harvin, Hank and Laura Hine, Virginia Johnson, Barbara St. Clair, Jim Sorensen, Paul Wilborn and Eugenie Bondurant.

Jones’ original play Further On Down The Road will debut Feb. 22 in a staged reading at The Studio@620. The play, Jones says, was inspired by the artwork of The Florida Highwaymen. (Further On Down the Road was the title of a Highwaymen exhibition during The Studio’s opening season in 2004.)

A 2024 exhibition of original Highwaymen works, La Florida Re-Found, opens Feb. 17 with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

Among the artists represented: Alfred Hair, Harold Newton, James Gibson, Al Black, Roy McLendon, Hezekiah Baker and Mary Ann Carroll.

Carroll’s daughter, Dr. Renee Mills, will give a gallery talk Feb. 18.

For information about the art and artists in The Florida Highwaymen: La Florida, Re-found, click here.























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