Willamette’s campus was filled with music and art this past weekend as Futurepalooza took place on April 20 from noon to 8 p.m. The event, which is this year’s iteration of Willamette’s art, earth and music festival Wulapalooza, was centered on the second floor of the Putnam University Center (UC), with various activities happening in the Bistro, Cat Cavern and on Brown Field.
Wulapalooza has been a beloved Willamette tradition since 1998, but due to funding issues, the Wulapalooza Club was forced to downsize this year, hosting Futurepalooza as an alternative.
“I want people to see it as a counterpart to Wulapalooza. It’s called Futurepalooza because we want to change the trajectory of where things are going and gain input from students,” said club Co-President Nikki Krebs (‘19). “What Wula should be is a bigger version of what we did this year, and with a lot of inspiration from its past.”
Throughout the day, attendees had the chance to see performances by guest artists such as Portland-based comedian Christian Burke and Hot Sheets, a punk band fronted by Willamette chemistry professor Karen Holman. Student groups such as the Improv Club, Pilot Lite and Paradigm Choreography were also featured. Community Service Learning facilitated a stress-relief paint-throwing mural from the balcony of UC 2, while food trucks served meals and bubble tea at the south entrance of the building. Inside the venue, clubs such as Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPoC) and the Archaeology Club hosted booths, and D Street Printing set up a screen printing station for T-shirts. The day ended with a performance from Poi Club on the banks of the Mill Stream at the sun set.
Attendance was low at Futurepalooza compared to past Wulapaloozas, creating a more intimate environment for performances and activities. First-year Oksana Greenwood had never attended Wulapalooza before, but enjoyed this year’s version.
“I really liked that it happened all day, so people could go in and make it their own thing and do whatever they want to do whenever they wanted to,” she said. “Also, I have friends like Nikki [Krebs] who are so energetic and so passionate about it, and I really appreciate the work that everyone put into it.”
Enku Castellanos (‘21) agreed. “I like the fact that it’s in Cat Cavern and that the activities are spread out,” she said. “There are some things outside, and I like the fact that the weather’s good. I wish there were more people, and I guess more involvement, but it’s cool for what it is.”
Meanwhile, other students missed certain aspects of Wulapalooza that have been present the past.
“I think something cool about Wula is that it’s sort of about sustainability, and how we can be more sustainable, so I’m hopeful about Wula in the future being more focused on how WU can be a more sustainable community, in a fun way. I think that was a cool part of Wula last year,” said Sophie Bunch (‘21).
While the event was well received by those who attended overall, Krebs still wishes that more activities had been integrated throughout the day. In preparation for Saturday, she and fellow Co-President Greth Lyon (‘19) spent time in the University archives, learning about what Wulapaloozas have historically looked like at Willamette.
“There used to be activities run by clubs and residence halls, and now it’s just been reduced to tabling,” she said. “I had wanted to have the balcony of the UC filled with clubs, but that didn’t happen.”
Increased club involvement is something that Krebs envisions for future Wulapaloozas, along with involvement with the local Salem community. However, she questions whether or not guest performers are what Willamette students actually want, and if the club’s energy should be directed towards student groups.
“At Futurepalooza, the biggest crowds came from loyalties and friendships,” she said. “People would funnel out when the so-called main events were onstage. It’s reminding me that I think we have put too much emphasis on bands from off campus and need to go back to community engagement. I still see value in the local artists, though. I want it to eventually be something where we’re gaining from new voices and collaborating. “
Despite Krebs’ plans for the future, Wulapalooza Club still has obstacles to overcome in the next few years. The majority of the club is made up of graduating seniors, and funding is expected to still be low next year.
“We’ve started putting all of our weight onto ASWU [Associated Students of Willamette University], which isn’t fair to them, and it’s not sustainable,” she said. “I think that if it’s a tradition on campus that people look forward to, and if there’s a club planning an event that’s annual and huge, there needs to be some sort of support through systems that can actually support us.”
Furthermore, Krebs sees the increased security at the event over the past few years as a limitation and a reason that attendance has been decreasing. During Wulapalooza in 2018, a large chain link fence was erected around the perimeter of Brown Field, which, according to Krebs, changed the atmosphere of the festival. Over the past few months, she has been researching other schools’ protocols. At Reed College, for example, the annual Renn Fayre is supervised by a non-profit called While Poird that provides anonymous emergency medical aid to students.
“The reputation of Wula did impact how we could do anything, and that’s why we needed the fence,” she said. “An administrator expressed to me that music brings out unsafe behavior in people, and maybe that’s true to an extent, but I think we can enjoy entertainment without experimenting with drugs that would result in a hospital visit. There needs to be a balance between preventative safety and acceptance that some things are going to happen that we aren’t going to know about, and we will inevitably need to mitigate risk on the spot. Fencing, hired and unfamiliar patrolling officers and anonymous emergency health options aren’t only barriers to safety, but barriers to inclusivity at Wula.”
Currently, Wulapalooza Club is accepting applications for executive positions for the upcoming school year, which will be due on Friday, April 23.