The Studio@620's Studio Review reviewed 

The Studio@620 applies its artfully inclusive spirit to a new publication.

On the eve of its sixth birthday, the Studio@620 — not content merely to rest on its laurels as a beloved home port for plays, exhibitions and other events — ventures boldly into new territory: the production of a literary journal dubbed the Studio Review. Printed in vivid color, broadsheet-style (i.e., on vertically oriented, folded pages like a traditional daily newspaper) and filled with short stories, illustrations, interviews and comics, the Studio Review celebrates its official launch on Sat., June 26, with a free party. Attendees at the Studio@620's anniversary gala on Sunday, June 20 — 6/20, get it? — snuck a peek at the publication, hot off the presses.

The literary journal may be about the only medium the Studio@620 has never tried, says artistic director and co-founder Bob Devin Jones. Since bursting on the scene in 2004, the Studio has hosted such diverse events as a film noir festival, roundtable discussions on social justice, printmaking workshops, intimate dance "salons" -- and, of course, countless dramatic productions, including an upcoming staging of Waiting for Godot slated for July 4th weekend. On top of such programming, the Studio exudes personality -- a sophisticated-yet-neighborly character born of exposed brick walls, the reliable presence of homemade cookies (often baked by Devin Jones), and the motto stenciled on a panel near the entrance: "The answer is always yes." Improbably, that can-do attitude has propelled the Studio@620 from a concept to a formidable arts organization.

"When [co-founder] Dave [Ellis] and I started the Studio...we didn't think about it -- I know we didn't think about it -- long term," says Devin Jones. "It was just this thing that we would do, and here we are six seasons later with a budget of $350,000 and another $150,000 in in-kind [donations]."

Despite the Studio@620's financial stability, when Devin Jones hatched the idea of a literary review over a French toast breakfast at the Vinoy with editor-in-chief Sarah Gerard, it seemed like a reckless idea, he says. Inspiration had struck in the form of the San Francisco Panorama, an issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern (the esteemed journal founded by novelist Dave Eggers), lovingly crafted as a utopian foray into newspaper publishing against predictions of the medium's demise. (Avowedly a one-issue-only experiment, the full-color Panorama included such delights as Stephen King's ruminations on the World Series.) Plotting something more modest in terms of monetary outlay and sustainable as a regular publication, Devin Jones and Gerard nevertheless hewed to Panorama's key characteristics: rich color and custom illustrations, long-form feature writing, themed sections, fiction and original comics.

At the helm, Gerard -- a fearless 20something who got a crash course in media management during the process -- quickly marshaled a small staff of contributing editors, who began requesting submissions for the first issue from writers and artists whose work they admired, both locally and from afar. [Editor's Note: Gerard is a frequent contributor to Creative Loafing, and CL is a media sponsor of the Studio Review.] California-based writer David Formentin furnishes an inconclusive tale about a road trip through the American West that readers of the Review are invited to extend by submitting "chapter two." A profile of Orlando-based artist Brandon McLean abuts an interview with Nick DuPey of Young Monster, a poster-design collective in Chattanooga that has made art for musicians including Sonic Youth and Andrew Bird.

Like its parent organization, the Studio Review evinces a commitment to tackling thorny social issues, both universal and specific to the Bay area, with an engrossing spread of photographs of handmade cardboard signs -- the kind used by the homeless to solicit spare change and jobs -- by artist Timm Mettler, as well as a cover story (by Gerard and CL Green Community Editor Katie Machol) devoted to the Roosevelt, an environmentally friendly exhibition space in Ybor City. Gerard compares the review's content brew to flipping through her grandfather's old copies of Playboy, with its combination of topical and timeless articles.

"There needs to be a mix like that," she says.

To keep the ship afloat, the aspiring quarterly will need a budget of about $10,000 per issue, Devin Jones estimates -- which the Studio Review has a chance of netting if it sells a fraction of its inaugural run of 3,000 issues at $12 a pop. Though Gerard plans to move to New York City to pursue an MFA in creative writing after the launch party, she will continue to edit the review remotely. Devin Jones, her mentor through the process -- and the mentor of many emerging artists whose work the Studio@620 has championed over the years -- hopes the experience of launching the Studio Review will propel her career forward. That's the logic, he says, behind the Studio@620 motto: The answer is always yes.

"There is a kind of gratification seeing people, you know -- there's this old spiritual song by Mahalia Jackson called 'How I got over'," Devin Jones says, pausing to sing a few bars of the song. "It's nice seeing people get over, get launched in the right way."


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