Saturday, June 24, 2017 This Week's Paper

Chalking, chatting, chortling

// Frost Park draws weekly collection of artists

Gone are the days when teachers used chalk to teach their lessons at schools, now that those dark green or black chalkboards have been largely replaced by dry erase boards or even computerized “smart boards.” But the glory of chalk lives on at Tacoma’s Frost Park at noon every Friday from April to October.

Last Friday’s Frost Park Chalk Off, Season Five, Episode 20, drew about a dozen artists under the burning sun as they vied for bragging rights of the “top chalker” of the day.

The effort started some five years ago with the simple idea that steamed from a Go Local meeting of having people come downtown, organizer and Feed Tacoma blogger turned activist Kevin Freitas said.

People just agreed to spend their lunch hour at Frost Park at the corner of South Ninth Street and Pacific Avenue. Then someone brought chalk. A competition commenced. The rest is history.

“It kind of happened without chalk and then it happened with chalk,” he said, noting that some 140 chalk offs have come and gone since then. Some had themes and prizes, others were just for fun and the fame of being a chalker.

It was Chris Robson’s first time at Frost Park. He learned about the weekly chalk offs through his Internet searches of art groups included the Frost Park Facebook Page. He likes the idea of chalk art because of its portability and its public reach.

“I wanted to do something that I could do anywhere and do it legally,” he said as he sketched out his gas-masked figure on a planter.

Brian Bartlebaugh brought his sons, Tyson and Trevor, out to draw a water-themed chalk drawing for an afternoon outing.

“I absolutely wouldn’t miss it,” he said as he clapped his hands to clear the chalk dust from his palms between.

James Stowe has used his share of chalk at the Frost Park events. He has participated in chalk offs since the beginning.

“It is sort of a tradition now,” he said. “It is a nice way to spend a lunch break.”

The Frost Park Chalk Offs have even been honored by Tacoma City Council, which named April 6, 2012, “Frost Park Chalk Day” at a council meeting last spring.