Friday, May 9, 2008

Frost Park: What Have We Accomplished?

I've been having a lot of fun at Frost Park these last couple months. It's a great chance to just get outdoors, especially as the weather gets nicer, and put some faces with all the names and blogs we see. I've heard a lot of interesting discussion about all the issues that people are writing on, seen new friends made, and seen the group grow and grow.

But the fact is that we started doing this with a purpose, and a hope of accomplishing something positive beyond just a networking opportunity. So have we? Well, first off, it all sprung out of word that a fence was to be erected around the area. So if we simply measure our success in terms of that, it's worth noting that the fence project has, in fact, been canceled. Not only was the county money set aside for the project pulled back, but it was actually repurposed directly to the Downtown Merchant's Group to offset potential losses during various upcoming street construction projects.

Does this really count as success, though? From what I gather, this move has little to do with our get-togethers, and much more to do with the county getting tired of waiting for the city to use requisitioned funds (similar action is pending on a couple other projects that have just been rolling over in the county's annual budget waiting for the city to get its act together). I'll grant the possibility that knowing there was a group out there that was against the fence may have contributed to either the city's never-ending discussion on the project or the county's eventual decision to repurpose the money, but I agree with what Councilman Farrel said, both in his first spiel at us and in our conversation a couple weeks ago: as far as "Taking back the park" and avoiding something like the fence altogether, it will take more than one lunch a week. It doesn't matter how many people we get down there any given Friday, if it's all focused then and doesn't spread to other days/times.

To me, the biggest thing we've achieved is along a different line altogether; not in the occupation of the park but in the new life that has sprung from it: the chalk-offs. Yeah, some people will still call that graffiti, and no, we're not combating crime or feeding the homeless or anything, but there is still a positive step being taken. Andrea summed it up best for me:
I'm not from around here, and I've spent most of my time hunkered down in my cave. It's encouraging to find out just how committed this community is to creative expression.
It really is awesome to see this outpouring of support for spontaneous community art. Better and better artists have taken up arms, in turn bringing out the best in the others (RR's work, for example, has stepped up drastically from his first piece to the most recent one, as he realized that there was actual competition). People who are convinced that they can't draw are doing so anyway. Even little kids are scribbling around. It's great, and it's the kind of cultural phenomenon that this city could use a lot more of. We've clearly got the right kind of people to be an art culture, we just need to start getting them in the same places more.

I know that, as the person who says "we need more of this" I become assigned to cause it. And I will if I think of something. But everyone else ought to, as well.

(P.S. wasn't able to whip it out today, but pending weather next week there will probably start being live music, too)


propriatress said...

I think you wrapped it up quite well...Getting out and meeting and greeting is pretty subversive these days! I remember the same feelings when I called out for artists of all kinds to paint my was so ugly...most walls in the Dome dist are ugh, so uninspiring. My project sure got tongues wagging about graffiti and art and color and it was pretty funny to see people challenged by.....COLOR ! I got to meet some neat people...TacomaMama! and lots of youngens too...Saying: Come and be joyful and laugh and make art!! is a great thing to do for Tacoma...

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