The TUF LUV multidisciplinary art show this Saturday will be on the newly renovated third floor of King Street Station, a 23,000-square-foot industrial gallery space. The stately 112-year-old building sits at the crossroads of three of the city’s more diverse neighborhoods—Pioneer Square, SoDo, and the International District—and has seen the identities of these communities shift and change over the years.
Which is perfect, because the TUF collective behind the show is all about creating space for intersectionality.
“The TUF collective was created by female-identifying, non-binary, and trans-masculine musicians, artists, writers, DJs, and other creative people to form a community, focusing around the mediums of electronic music and digital media,” explains Annie Holden, who, with Grey Ellis, Kellye Kuh, Gia Valente, and Simone Pierson, organized the all-day event. The year-old collective boasts members from all over the world, though most are located in Seattle.
The collective started as a Facebook group where people could get together and share music, and includes artists like secondnature producer Aos, DJ Sharlese Metcalf (KEXP), and performance artist Virgin Domain. TUF began because many of its members felt stifled in the overwhelmingly straight/white/male worlds of digital media and electronic music. “A lot of people in TUF enjoy electronic music and digital media, and were consistently frustrated to see men hold power on so many levels of these mediums,” says Holden.
Fellow organizer Ellis explains, “We want to create spaces to uplift voices that don’t often get heard. We are here to support each other across changing or varied identities.”
Co-organizer Kuh points out that this event is not excluding straight men. “Our mission is attracting allies regardless of gender identification. The talent in TUF is rather diverse, and I think people are inspired [by] how collaborating expands our impact and is beginning to change the status quo.”
At seven hours long, TUF LUV is one of the group’s largest events thus far, taking advantage of King Street Station’s massive gallery space by featuring work from more than 30 visual artists, including music videos and GIFs. DJ sets will alternate with poetry and spoken word. Lectures and workshops will span the entire day, covering such diverse subjects as meditation, racism, and liberation, consent while partying, feminism on the Internet, radical self-love, and social justice. Many pieces and performances will encourage participation from attendees.
At the heart of TUF’s mission is collaboration; their monthly DJ nights at The Eagle, skill-sharing workshops, and TUF LUV show the amazing potential that results from people weaving together their power, their skills, and their vision. “A great example of this influence,” Holden says, “is a piece of community public art being contributed by the group Expose Rape. They are inviting the community to come together [to contribute to the piece] on June 2, the night before TUF LUV.”
Ellis stresses the group’s focus on developing a cooperative structure. “We’ve been collaborating, booking each other, and showing up to each other’s shows. We’ve been creating skill-shares for each other. We’ve been doing the work of deeply engaging with each other. We want to set each other up for success.”
There is also a deep urge within the collective to create and maintain space that is as safe as possible for people—for going out in public as their preferred gender for the first time, dancing from the seat of their wheelchair, or learning how to process trauma through artistic expression. TUF is a collective dedicated not only to supporting these pivotal moments, but which also sees the inherent promise in providing the kind of loving laboratory environment people need when exploring themselves.
“I have been moved,” says Kuh, “by vulnerability in two spaces: new artists revealing early works and exposing themselves to the public in new ways, and new collaborations between artists who work in separate media but are attempting to create and perform in new ways together. The vulnerability of both excite me and illustrate the openness and mutuality we attempt to create as organizers.” Kuh and others involved with TUF are excited to collaborate with other intersectional groups, in the hope of creating an international conversation around oppression, liberation, identity, and self expression.
TUF LUV is also making room for people to wrestle with the social and political pressures they face daily. Much of the art, conversations, and music coming out of the collective are direct answers to the politics of the day. As Holden points out, “In an age where everything is constantly politicized, I believe that most everything we do is a political act—even just having a body.”
Ellis has similar feelings. “Aesthetics are political. Making art is political. Making time to show up to support folks at whatever level you are capable of is political,” Ellis says emphatically. “This city is changing, becoming more affluent, but … I’m interested in making inclusive spaces, spaces for folks to interact with art, friends, and musicians that engage learning.”
The organizers are hopeful that attendees will come away from this event feeling as though they’ve been part of something, feeling that they helped to create, and not just observe, this show. TUF has curated a space for an intersection of ages, races, and genders to blend and coalesce, opening the door for that magical potential of the unknown. There is a distinct power in stepping outside the mainstream patriarchal paradigm and fostering an atmosphere of inclusion. TUF hopes to tap into that power and share it with the world.
Understanding the potential of an “immersive and powerful” experience, Kuh’s vision for the event’s ramifications for participants reach further than just this weekend. “I am most anticipatory of the youth work,” Kuh explains. “I think a crowd of creative adults celebrating their accomplishments will have the broadest long-term impact for all involved.”
The feedback on their efforts has been fiercely positive and supportive, says Holden. “The great, supportive response we’ve gotten from the larger community, and other female/queer/trans/non-binary art collectives from around the world, has also been humbling and is indicative that TUF is a group that is really important to exist.” TUF LUV with Unicole Unicron, Shaun Kardinal, Powerful Voices Youth Group, DJ Explorateur, Bailey Skye, Allyce Andrew & Maia Doty, and more. King Street Station, 303 S. Jackson St., tuf-seattle.com. $5–$15. All ages. 10:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat., June 4.
Art credit: “tsinelas” by Ella Ordona