Jerry Frost: Artist and Donor
“I grew up instinctively knowing that the world beyond my hometown, church, and family was very different from what I was experiencing in Louisville, Kentucky,” artist and Art for AIDS donor Jerry Frost recounts, adding that one of his early memories was of speaking out against racism after hearing his father make a racist remark. “I was lucky to have art as a place to escape, to seek solitude, and to express myself. But I was determined to get away as soon as I could and that is what I did.”
At the age of 14, Frost “came out” to his family, who warned him to “keep it to your self.” Instead, Frost let the world know who he was. In response, he was harassed and beaten and even had a cross burned into his family’s front lawn.
When he was sixteen Frost bought a sketchpad and began spending more and more time at a commune where his artist friends lived. Eventually, he moved in. To make ends meet, he worked in a paper factory and as a dishwasher in a hospital. Later he followed his father’s new family to Los Angeles and lived with them for a few years. Finally, in 1974 Frost made his way to San Francisco, but the invitations of easy sex and drugs were too tempting: Frost felt like he would be consumed in San Francisco, so he moved to Susanville. There he began to study art in earnest, eventually getting a Master of Fine Arts degree from Chico State. According to Frost’s artist statement, “My artistic journey is a process which allows me to express the many levels of my life through color, texture, and illusion on a two-dimensional surface. Pushing and pulling the paint and bringing it to a place of comprehensive completion is always my goal.”
Frost is a giver, and he gives to organizations and to his friends and loved ones in need. As a child Frost taught his developmentally delayed sibling to eat, dress herself, and become independent, something that had not occurred to his parents to impart. His propensity for teaching, sharing, and giving are instinctual, it’s just who he is.
This pattern of helping those in need got him into trouble when he got hooked on crystal meth, introduced to him by a lover he was trying to rescue from the streets. Eventually, Frost got off meth with the help of the Stonewall Project at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. It was then that he confirmed what he had always known, that he was living with HIV. Since then, Frost has given generously to any organization who asks, but he is especially inspired to donate to HIV and LGBTQ organizations.
Now Frost lives in a flat in San Francisco, where he leads a quiet life. He shares his home with a beloved roommate, who he says is like a life partner, “without all the complications.” Frost paints and visits friends and donates paintings to causes that move him. As for his experience at AHP, Frost said, he would like to continue to see a therapist to talk through some of his struggles. Everyone needs help, “even those of us who seem to have it all together.”