ST. PETERSBURG — You may want to TiVo the first inning of the Rays game Friday night — the opening ceremony of "Midtown Through Our Eyes," an annual event, will offer a whole new perspective on the city.
The program will present the heart and soul of Midtown — the idiosyncratic shops, little-known businesses and unique city residents — through the photojournalistic work of elementary and middle school students.
Last June, 44 student journalists from Melrose Elementary School and John Hopkins Middle School, two journalism intensive institutions, reported in Midtown over a course of 12 days.
"Some of the stuff they found was really neat," said Logan Mabe, a journalism instructor at John Hopkins. "There's a guy who built a mansion down on 18th Avenue S and another guy who owns a hair salon that's entirely frog-theme. There's just so many interesting aspects of the city you just don't know are there," Mabe said.
The students will present their findings at the opening reception Friday. The presentation will be 5 to 8 p.m. at the Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S. Among the presenters are several students who worked on the project, VIP guest speakers, parents and teachers.
People attending the program will be able to purchase some of the work produced by the student journalists; proceeds will be applied to funding next year's Midtown series. The presentation will display about 100 student photos taken over the summer.
The reception also will feature the unveiling of Midtown Magazine, a yearly periodical featuring many of the student journalists' summer findings.
The program, now in its seventh year, allowed students to see the city on several scheduled field trips last June. "Allowing them to get out there and report really helps the kids to learn and grow," said Cynda Mort, the Midtown Journalism Project coordinator. "It's really exciting to see them gain confidence, learn how to introduce themselves and establish the social skills needed to be a real journalist," she said.
Mort, a 14-year former employee of the St. Petersburg Times news department, said she is working to expand the program to Lakewood High School next summer.
The camp and exhibit are made possible with funds from Eckerd College's Center for Applied Liberal Arts. The exhibit will be on display at Studio@620 through Oct. 18. Studio hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.