Local art collective TUF focuses on uplifting marginalized groups—people of color, women, LGBTQ community members—particularly by giving them a channel for creative endeavors.
This Saturday, July 14, at Judkins Park, TUF puts on its third annual TUFFEST, a single-day festival featuring music, visual art installations, performances, and educational workshops. The daytime portion runs from noon to 10:00pm, free and all ages.
Music includes local artists Guayaba, Lilac, and Niz, plus the likes of Nightspace and Scylla returning home after decamping to other locales. Seattle’s Reel Grrls and artist-about-town Colleen Louise Barry will show visual work, while workshops will cover a range of interests: Nikkita Oliver champions the merging of art with activism, Pittsburgh Queer History Project teaches about community archiving, and a pair of sessions offer lessons in DJing and utilizing synths.
Tiffany Wan, a veteran of TUF, says the festival stemmed from TUF members supporting each other’s creative pursuits. They saw TUFFEST as a way to become more public-minded and “show people who are not white cis men that they have a voice, that they have a place—and we want to be that support,” says Wan.
The festival’s music might recall the club scenes of New York and Berlin, which have a largely underground history that often involved queer culture and people of color. But TUF’s bookings also react to the present, particularly the rise of EDM as a glittery, mollified college party soundtrack. “A lot of people, when they think of a DJ, it’s like, the person is usually masculine, usually white, and, like, why is it that way? When the roots of that music is the complete opposite,” says Wan.
Festivals are celebratory in nature, but TUFFEST flaunts resilience, too. “I think to say that music or art is independent of the politics or the culture that it’s attached to is completely false. Electronic dance music is political,” says Wan.
Part of those politics are a push for fluidity. Consider House of Eclipse, a local dance ensemble, which embodies the relationship queer experience has with survival, enacting the idea of "dancing for your life." They take after dancers of the 80s and 90s who pioneered "voguing," a whirlwind of hieroglyphically angular movements set to club-ready music. In action it turns defiant—an example of the body's ability to boldly take up space.
“We want to inspire people to do more things,” says Wan, “whether it’s learning to DJ, or performing, or being an artist, or pursuing something that they’ve been afraid to pursue because of the power structures that are in place in our society.”
Sure, the political stakes of art can get heady, a notion that Wan herself acknowledges. But TUFFEST also sees plenty of warm weather levity—like people dancing on a lawn to celebrate the freedom to move comfortably. “I wish that when I was younger I’d seen something like that,” says Wan.
Judkins Park, noon–10pm, Free