The first annual all-day TUF FEST

speaker at TUF Fest

The first annual TUF FEST 2016 brought together a diverse array of artists and participants to celebrate and learn more about the Seattle electronic music scene. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Judkins Park, Seattle was filled with workshops, panels, art installations and music performances.

TUF itself is an “intersectional female, non-binary and trans” collective of about 80 members based in Seattle. The collective “engages, uplifts and celebrates its members and the community through collaboration, workshops, skillshares and events,” according to their mission statement and description.

TUF FEST was funded by the Office of Arts and Culture Seattle and partnered with the Northwest African American Museum located nearby. Most of the morning’s workshops and panels were held in the park itself, but community partnerships with NAAM and Cafe Weekend provided the other locations.

Workshops included opportunities to learn about live sound, drum machines, synthesizers and overviews of digital audio manipulation. One participant, a woman who identified herself only as Anna took a workshop located at Cafe Weekend. She had never tried Ableton software but had been hoping to get into the scene, and the workshop gave her access “from the start introduction to the program.” The program itself has so much depth to it that she said even people who use it professionally “don’t even know everything that it can do.” Although after the workshop she isn’t an expert, she said “at least now I know how to open the program and mess around.”

DoNormaal performs for the crowd

Panel discussions delved more into the social and cultural landscape of creating rather than the concrete steps of making music. As a collective with an emphasis on creating space for those who often feel shut out and shut down, discussions of race, gender and society come hand in hand with surviving in the music and art industry. One example, a discussion called “To alter or abandon?” focused on being a person of color in Seattle. This panel asked questions such as “when is working within institutional power worth the struggle and when is it advantageous to organize alternatives with your communities?”

The festival also included visual art including work by youth artists and graduates of UW and Cornish. These installations added another dimension to the audio art showcased by performers and workshop leads, and also highlighted the theme of female, nonbinary and trans artists.

Being a member of the collective provides a chance to be supported and uplifted by likeminded individuals. “I finally have a space where I can be myself and connect with other people like me,” said Olivia Hatfield, also known as Guayaba or Aeon Fux. She is a newer member but has been creating music on her own for years. “TUF, not just as a collective, but individual members have helped me so much,” she explained. She recently graduated from Evergreen College and moved to Seattle and has been searching for a sense of community for a long time. To her, TUF is special because “everyone is always building each other up and reassuring each other that our voices matter and that our art matters.”

TUF FEST performer Christy Karefa-Johnson, also known as DoNormaal, found a similar sense of community at the event, saying that her favorite part of working with TUF is the “diversity and the inclusiveness.” As for this event in particular, she said it represents what she looks for when she is deciding where to perform. “It just feels good to play on bills that are inclusive and that have people of all ethnicities, all gender identities, all sexualities, everybody that could be represented is here.”

The next generation was present in families with small children who had been drawn to the music from the surrounding neighborhood. TUF members assure their fans that they will continue to create space for creative expression and uplift their audiences through the variety of artistic mediums and identities each artist represents.