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Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Exhibit showcases students’ views of south St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — An exhibit at the Studio @620 portraying the world as seen by youth in South St. Petersburg opens with a reception Friday.

Now in its 12th year, “Through Our Eyes”is a showcase of the work of K-12 students from several southside schools who are learning about journalism.

The nonprofit arts venue’s walls are lined with photos, text and even drawings. The photos vividly depict everything from a woman gardening to stop signs covered in stickers and graffiti.

The project aims to teach journalism skills that apply to life — namely, communication and curiosity — but it also offers a more nuanced perspective of South St. Petersburg neighborhoods Midtown and Lakewood, areas known for crime and economic despair, said Organizer Cynda Mort, head of the journalism program at Lakewood High School.

“We have kids that are constantly talking about listening to the gun shots and bullets flying at night,” she said. “That’s a part of their life. So those challenges are still there. But they’re really being able to tell stories about, you know, flip ladies who take care of everybody and moms and grandmas who sort of embrace the whole neighborhood.”

Giving the kids a venue for their work, and training some of them as docents to discuss it at the opening reception, also helps expose them to an audience that lies beyond the walls of their schools.

“We all need those formative learning experiences that help us one day go out into the work force and earn a job and earn a living,” said Bob Devin Jones, founder and artistic director of Studio @620. “If you expect to find the next James Baldwin — or the next Alec Baldwin, for that matter — you’ve got to have the opportunity to know and they have to be exposed to it. I think, for me, that’s the biggest piece of the program that excites me.”

Studio @620 hosts the event, at no charge to the organizers, because education is such a key aspect of the venue’s mission, Jones said.

Dozens of students from Lakewood High School, John Hopkins Middle School and Melrose Elementary submitted more than 100 photos to the show, which lasts through Oct. 6.

One of them was from Melrose Elementary fifth grader Shamaya Williams. The photo features a handful of her classmates surrounded by what looks like bright orange plastic — a traffic cone used during gym class Shamaya thought would make a cool frame for a snapshot.

“I tripped over it. I just picked it up, and put the camera in front of it and snapped a picture,” she said.

It wound up being one of her favorites. She submitted it, and now it will end up being one of the many she describes when she serves as a docent Friday night.

“I feel proud of myself because everybody else gets to see it, and not just me all the time.”

The opening reception runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at 610 First Ave. S.

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