Long before spoken word, music and dance were offered at many art spaces in the Sunshine City, there was a small hub of activity brewing along First Avenue S. For nearly a decade, a steady lineup of art, theater, film and exhibits has held court at a place where the "answer is always yes."
Through the years, patrons and performers have varied from local school groups to Oscar-winning actors and directors.
Studio@620 has been all this and more: a place where spoken-word and aspiring young artists continue to find a supportive platform, and where the annual "Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond" exhibit has found a home.
It's hard to imagine that the Studio@620 is about to kick off a yearlong celebration that culminates with its 10th anniversary in 2014.
The celebration begins at 6:20 p.m. Saturday — June 22.
The Studio's core mission of bringing together people of diverse cultures and experiences as artists, audiences and volunteers mirrors the endearing friendship of its founding co-directors, David Ellis and Bob Devin Jones.
They are celebrating more than a milestone anniversary. The Studio is the recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke Building Demand for the Arts grant. The $80,000 grant is just one of 10 awarded nationally.
The Studio will partner with actor, vocalist and writer Sharon Scott to implement a residency program where she'll serve as mentor to 12 emerging young artists.
"This grant represents the culmination of the diverse body of work we've done over the years," said Jones, adding that it's a huge honor.
"We've strived for inclusion in much of our programming, so it's great because we feel like we're being rewarded (with the grant)."
If the 18-month project is successful, there's a chance it could serve as a model for similar programs across the country that will be supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The young artists will develop original work in jazz, theater and contemporary dance. The Studio will launch an application process for the program this month.
• • •
In other news, the city is considering a bicycle sharing program.
It makes sense when you consider all the work already put into CityTrails and the Pinellas Trail extension.
There's a network of scenic bicycle lanes and routes as well as recreational trails throughout the city, so adding a bike share program is a logical next step.
"We're just going through that review process right now," said Joe Kubicki, director of transportation and parking management.
Expect to hear the details when a completed study goes before the City Council in 60 to 90 days.
Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8874. Follow @StPeteSandi on Twitter.