University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus



Nelson Poynter Memorial Library archiving pieces of art renaissance in St. Pete

Bob Devin Jones

Bob Devin Jones is co-founder and artistic director of The Studio@620

The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library (NPML) is collecting and digitizing over a decade’s worth of artistic material from the venue The Studio@620.

The studio, which gets its namesake from its location in downtown St. Petersburg at 620 1st Ave. S., has played a key role in the renaissance of the arts in the city. This new collaboration seeks to preserve that history.

“We’re flattered that someone would think to archive what we’ve done,” said Bob Devin Jones, co-founder and artistic director of The Studio. “When you see our programs, who we did it for and why, it’s extraordinary. This was a special time in St. Petersburg, and we happen to be there to chronicle it.”

Jones, an actor, and his former neighbor Dave Ellis, an industrial designer, opened the venue in 2004 for up-and-coming artists who needed a place to perform or display their art in the community. Their mission was to bring greater creativity, innovation and diversity to the city.


Studio founders David Ellis and Bob Devin Jones in 2007. Ellis passed away in 2018, and Jones continues to run the studio.

Jones recalls planning the first event. He was told their location was too far away and people might not attend. On top of that, the building had no air conditioning. The program, “Grand Ma’s Hands: One Hundred Years of African American Quilting,” went on anyway. They hired singers to perform and hoped for the best.

“We opened the door and had over 200 people that first evening. This was before we had social media, so we think it came at the right time. We learned that you couldn’t go wrong betting on the community,” Jones said. “St. Petersburg has been great to me. We’ve been fortunate. People said yes to me and our motto is, ‘The answer is always yes.’”


 Jones directed this all-Black cast of Voodoo MacBeth in 2017. The adapted version of William Shakespeare's MacBeth was originally directed by Orson Welles in 1936.

Over the years, the space has been a popular spot for artists of all types and home to a broad range of art and artistic expressions, including paintings, films, plays, dances and social roundtable discussions. Collected materials from the exhibits and shows, including pictures, publicity programs, podcasts and videos, will be permanently housed in USF’s digital archives as part of the NPML’s Special Collections Department.

“The library at the USF St. Petersburg campus is embedded in the community,” said Kristina Keogh, dean of the NPML. “We support the creative and innovative work of the broader community. If we can preserve those stories, tell them to the wider world and have the means to do that, then I think it’s incumbent on us to have these partnerships.”

Keogh added that the focus of NPML’s Special Collections Department is St. Petersburg and Florida history, so the archival project with The Studio@620 is a perfect fit. She hopes it will be available to the public by the end of 2023 through USF’s Digital Commons under the St. Petersburg Digital Collections.

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