RR Anderson, DIY Cultural Arts Specialist

Apr. 5, 2009 at 8:25pm

A People's History of Frost Park Chalk Challenge

City Arts Fact Checking

Hello R.R.,

Just doing some last-minute fact checking for my City Arts story. I'm talking a bit about Frost Park as kind of being the spawning ground for the CLAW. What's the story with the proposed fence? I can't seem to find anything about it.

Your quick response is very much appreciated.

Thanks much,

Mark Deming

RE: City Arts Fact Check

Pierce county Councilman Tim Farrel would know more details
but he gave soapbox speech early on in frost park gathering history
saying that the TPD were pressuring him to install a fence (like they did to the little parks across from the library (making it look like GTMO)). Later on Matt Driscoll of the cutting edge investigative journalist rag Weekly Volcano asked Tacoma city manager Eric Anderson about the frost park fence and Mr. Anderson I would say scauffed at poor Matt like he had lobsters clinging to his ears. I believe his words were "There are no plans for a fence."

What is fact? What is fiction? All I know is The CLAW is real now and folks had better respect our invisible hand gripped tightly around all chalk in this stinking (literally) town.

(slams fist into keyboard for dramatic emphasis above)

Thanks Mark!

- RR

RE: City Arts Fact Check

In fairness, I believe I did have lobsters clinging to my ears... for fashion.

- Matt Driscoll

RE: City Arts Fact Check

This helps. Thanks R.R.! Maybe you could draw a picture of Matt with lobsters on his ears in the upcoming challenge.

Here's the section in question. Sound factual?

On a Friday morning last April, a bulletin was stapled to virtual telephone poles all across online Tacoma:

challenges YOU to a sidewalk chalk sketch-off

Due to concerns about crime, factions within the city government had proposed fencing off Frost Park on the corner of South 9th and Commerce. This was Anderson�s way of protesting, blowing the conch shell to summon all artists.

The call to arms was issued again the next Friday. And the next. And the next. More artists came to Frost Park each week to draw on the sidewalks and walls, hoping to be crowned �Best Illustrator in the Universe of Tacoma.� Crowds gathered around to watch. Sponsors lined up to donate prizes. Lunch breaks grew conspicuously long.

In addition to Anderson, regular participants included Monlux, James Stowe and �Electric� Elliot Trotter. When the rains ended the fun last fall, they found themselves wanting more. They had enjoyed the camaraderie, the razzing and one-upsmanship. They had enjoyed drawing for drawing�s sake.

�Too many of us [draw] for a living and go home and turn off the switch,� Monlux says. Frost Park had helped change that.

So how could they keep the light on?

They spent a month discussing it, but nothing seemed to stick.

Then someone mentioned fezzes.

- Mark Deming

RE: City Arts Fact Check

frost park diagram That's pretty good.

there was an awkward transition between 'take back the park' which was people gathering to eat lunch before we broke out the chalk.

Also there is the Cartoonists Northwest which Mark and I are members... we hated driving to Seattle for meetings. I had created a benign phishing website called "tacoma cartoonist society" a spoof of the national cartoonists society that Electric Elliot found and wanted to make real. A real Tacoma Cartoonist Society needed a snappy acronym so we came up with CLAW then we threw in the secret society fez angle to make it interesting.

those are complimentary details though and what you have is nice


- RR

RE: City Arts Fact Check

Thanks, R.R. Due to space limitations, I've had to kind of gloss over some details. The trick is to get the heart of the story across, keep a narrative line and be "not unfactual." If you think I've succeeded in this, I'm going to run with it.

Thanks so much for your time.

- Mark Deming

RE: City Arts Fact Check

The county had originally offered to pay for fencing at Frost Park - it was a concern that originated out of respect for the Police Officer, Larry Frost, whom the park was named after. The criminal element had gone off the rails at that particular site and had been problematic for some time. This matter was a personal irritation to members of the community and to some of the officers on the force who had served with Larry. Think about it - the one park named after a murdered officer had one of the highest 911 calls for service of any location in the city. It was a slap in the face to Officer Frost's family and the police department. As a result, we offered to help fund decorative fencing to keep the crime out of the park.

This offer was recinded when the community led by bloggers and artists decided to take the park back. Because of the community commitment and involvement, the park is now a place where families take their kids to picnic during the summer days and artists led by Mr. Anderson hold weekly contests weather permitting. It was a positive community solution to a vexing problem.

Well done, Mr. Anderson.

- Tim Farrell

RE: City Arts Fact Check

Sorry for the delay.

- Eric Anderson

From: Ramsdell, Don
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2009 1:49 PM
To: Anderson, Eric; McKinley, Dick
Subject: FW: City Arts Fact Check


Below is a response from Lt. Shawn Gustason in response to the email that you received the other day regarding Frost Park at the corner of 9th and Commerce St. As you will see, many folks were involved in a very nice effort to make the park a safer and cleaner place for citizens to be. If you have any further questions please let me know.


P.S. Just a little history about the park � Frost Park was named after Police Patrol Officer Larry Frost, who was shot and killed in the line of duty with his own gun back in the mid 1970�s in South Tacoma. After the shooting, the suspect stripped off all of his clothes and waited for officers to take him into custody a block away without incident. I believe that the suspect was eventually acquitted at trial due to a diminished capacity defense.

From: Gustason, Shawn
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2009 4:32 PM
To: Ramsdell, Don; Sheehan, Bob; Langford, Mark
Cc: Wojtanowicz, Lisa
Subject: RE: City Arts Fact Check

Chief, Early 2008 a CPTED review of the park was done due to the increase in criminal activity around the park and transit center. The CPTED review included ornamental fencing around a large portion of the park. There was some public concern with the fencing. Due to this concern, we modified the plans and only fenced in the alcove at the northwest corner of the City owned Park Plaza North Parking garage. The alcove was a covered and secluded spot which doubled as a restroom and drug use area for the transit/park patrons. The fencing of the alcove coupled with camera improvements by Pierce Transit and the extra park Plaza North Patrols eliminated the criminal element from the park. Also around the time of the CPTED review several groups became active with using the park, I�m not sure if the initial info of fencing started this or not but it became an extremely positive force in the park. The Chalk Art group is the most noticeable and I believe the attached email is associated with the group.

To sum it up, we now have no intentions of fencing the park. When we proposed fencing we received public concern and readjusted our plans to accommodate the concerns. The end result was a park that is safe and secure and now hosts several positive public events throughout the summer.

From: Ramsdell, Don
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2009 12:29 PM
To: Sheehan, Bob; Langford, Mark; Gustason, Shawn
Subject: FW: City Arts Fact Check

Could any of you shine some light regarding the email below?

Thank you!

From: Anderson, Eric
Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 10:29 AM
To: Ramsdell, Don; McKinley, Dick
Subject: FW: City Arts Fact Check

Can you help me answer this. I do not believe we have any plans for a fence, but perhaps I am unaware of approach either of you are taking.

- Eric Anderson

comments [5]  |  posted under art, chalk, challenge, community, frost park, tacoma


by KevinFreitas on 4/6/2009 @ 2:39am
there was an awkward transition between 'take back the park' which was people gathering to eat lunch before we broke out the chalk.

Not sure I agree at all with that statement considering it was really more of a gradual, organic transition imho. The original idea for occupying the park came after a Local Life session led by Paul Sparks wherein Patricia LD mentioned the park possibly being fenced off. Izenmania heeded Jim Diers' advice of "don't ask, just do" and started to head to the park the very next Friday. Though communication was off that first week from the second week on we were there every Friday through late October.

by Adam the Alien on 4/7/2009 @ 9:16am
Yeah, I don't think the transition was awkward at all. It was more of a beautifully flowing waterfall. Sure, on one level it's very powerful and dangerous and chaotic...but, on the other hand, it's very pretty and majestic and one Hell of a good story to tell if you survive going over it.

I take offense to the notion that the rains brought about the first season's end. The ending was a decision, as I recall, to end it on a good, even number rather than let it taper off as the holidays and cold weather approached. Rain has NEVER stopped us.

by izenmania on 4/7/2009 @ 9:28am
The consistent rain and cold contributed. People were putting up with occasional bad weather, but the season was changing and attendance was petering out. I think a recharging of chalk-energy was good for everybody. I am hoping that this time around we can leverage it into more than just chalking.

by Erik on 4/7/2009 @ 9:37am
The "take back the park" component raised a lot of interest and helped created the fertile ground for RR original chalk challenge and the creation of Episode I.

Its pretty funny that a bunch of brown bagging bloggers were characterized as urban Braveheart types.

In the end though, it all worked out and the City ended up being a sponsor of two later episodes, Tagro being one of the most memorable.

I think a recharging of chalk-energy was good for everybody.

Yes. It was nice we got to control the number of episodes with a strong finish rather being forced out.

by Adam the Alien on 4/7/2009 @ 10:17am
People were putting up with occasional bad weather, but the season was changing and attendance was petering out.

Bah! BAH, I say! We'd grown weak during the summer! Why, I remember an early week it hailed on the last portion of a chalk-off. And since before the chalk-offs, we'd lunch in the park in all weather, even snow! We grew weak, I tell you! WEAK!

Heh. :-D


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RR Anderson is one of the most curious characters in the UFO lore and the history of underground cartooning. He fought bizarre underground beings in the caves of Alaska, was wounded by a laser before it was invented, and had a background with the clandestine branch of the Tacoma Cartoonists Society.

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