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It's back

Season three of Frost Park Chalk-Offs begins Friday

R.R. ANDERSON: Invites you to get your chalk on Fridays at noon. Photo courtesy of Erik Bjornson

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Friday marks the return of an event that's quickly become a Tacoma underground institution - the Friday Frost Park Chalk-Off Challenge - or whatever it's officially called.

The "official" name really isn't important: what's important is the action. Now entering season three of weekly Frost Park Chalk-Offs, the Frost Park chalk movement initially started as a way for the community to positively "occupy" Larry Frost Memorial Park during their lunch hour every Friday - at least during the warm(ish) spring and summer months. Frost Park, near the 10th and Commerce bus station and originally created as a monument to a fallen police officer, had become a hapless spot - home to an unsavory sect of life that Dan Voelpel, formerly of The News Tribune, referred to as "ne'er do wells."

But chalk came to the rescue, or so the story goes. At the very least, a large group of artists, community activists, freaks, weirdoes and some of the best Tacoma has to offer now meet every Friday at Frost Park for sidewalk art challenges - naming one chalker the "Greatest Illustrator in the Universe (of Tacoma)" every week through online voting on

It's a pretty cool, very DIY phenomenon - and one of the people behind it is Tacoma's gadfly comic R.R. Anderson. The Volcano caught up with Anderson this week, on the cusp of a new chalk-off season, to get his thoughts on the beast he helped to create.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Here we are, on the verge of Season Three of Frost Park Chalk-Off action. Did you ever think your baby would grow up to be so big and strong?

R.R. ANDERSON: Never. But the people demand it. Who am I to resist the will of the people? Nobody. We are all tools of the art cosmos. 

VOLCANO: In case some people reading this have made the strange decision to live outside the tight-knit world of the Tacoma blogosphere, or - say - they haven't been exposed to previous chalk off coverage in our area's print media - how would you describe the Frost Park Chalk-Off phenomenon to people?

ANDERSON: It's one hour of chalk to concrete pounding mayhem in the heart of a city that refuses to die - every Friday at noon. We are the white blood cells scabbing over the emotional wounds with beautiful artwork.

VOLCANO: If you had to define the essence of the weekly Frost Park Chalk-Off, how would you? What does it mean when all these folks, chalk in hand, gather to produce sidewalk art on their lunch breaks?

ANDERSON: Participation in Frost Park is the same as a Vulcan mind-meld with the past 100 agonizing years of human innovation. It's more than a bond with one soiled spot within a city, but the naked city itself. You may be the greatest abstract triangle painter in the world, but the folks on the street aren't going to care about that. The challenge confronts artists with the abyss ... the abyss doesn't just stare back ... the abyss is data mining for total information awareness.  For some of our more veteran chalkies, it's the only time they can feel normal again. 

VOLCANO: Initially, the Chalk-Offs had to do with making sure Frost Park wasn't fenced off by the county or city as a method of deterring congregating "ne'er do wells". Obviously, no fence has been erected - a win for chalkers everywhere. But, how goes the battle with ne'er do wells? I'm curious - are they easy to spot? Do you ever fear a ne'er do well might actually infiltrate the chalk action? What would ne'er do well chalk art look like?

ANDERSON: Are you talking about the common street criminal or the TPD Urban Design Assault Team? Because they're both up to no good.  Hmm. Ne'er do well chalk art. I'm thinking repetitious portraits of L. Ron Hubbard, maybe?  Come to my Federal Way Mega Church?  It‘s never been a problem.

VOLCANO: What are the goals for season three?

ANDERSON: Musical chalk busking. Local currency. Barter trading. Mix tape exchange. Proclamation from the City Council for a ‘Sidewalk Chalk Season'. Maybe an "International Sidewalk Chalk Service District"? Parking meters. Getting the Frost Park fountain fixed. This park is dedicated to policemen killed in the line of service - you'd think after the Lakewood cop murders, the city would put some effort into fixing up the park for fuck sake! So far the city would rather throw money away on Tollefson Triangle Square. 

VOLCANO: Any hints as to what you've got planned for your first piece of sidewalk art of season three?

ANDERSON: Spirit capture portraits!  Bring your sacred objects. I'll talk with people and paint their essence in chalk (weather permitting).  

[Frost Park, every Friday, noon to 1 p.m., Ninth and Pacific, Tacoma, vote at]

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Comments for "It's back" (2)

Weekly Volcano is not responsible for the content of these comments. Weekly Volcano reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

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Erik B. said on Apr. 01, 2010 at 1:06am

Great article.

Here is my Feed Tacoma post on it:

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RR Anderson said on Apr. 01, 2010 at 8:22am

It is obvious I have no idea how blood works.

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