Looking for something fun and exciting to do this fall break? Look no further. Take part in a celebration of community and culture at O+ Festival in Kingston starting Friday, Oct. 6.
In 2010, a group of artists and healthcare workers came together to discuss how they could exchange their talents and provide care to underinsured artists. In a defining moment, dentist Tom Cingel said that if his favorite band Monogold played in Kingston, he would clean their teeth.
From there, the groundwork for O+ was born; its mantra is “we exchange the art of medicine for the medicine of art.” Its first festival included 35 bands, 15 visual artists and 50 doctors. By 2016, the festival grew to provide over 614 various health visits to 91 musicians, 48 artists and 46 volunteers.
“As a painter not having health insurance in 2010, I knew there was a need for this,” said O+ co-founder Joe Concra. “It’s community based, so we’re taking care of each other and valuing each other equally. We remove all the labels you are used to for a weekend, and we set up a clinic and care for each other.”
The organization is now a national non-profit organization. The October festival doubles as its primary fundraiser and day of exchange between artists and doctors. However, O+ does work year round as well, connecting artists with health care providers and holding events in Poughkeepsie and Haverhill, Massachusetts.
According to O+’s chief storyteller Kathleen Murray, the weekend has become as diverse as ever, featuring muralists, musicians, yoga and dance instructors, poets and writers. Festival writers, who will be stationed at Outdated Cafe, inspired this year’s theme of “home.”
“The main thing is for everybody to be open and follow their instincts to different venues,” Murray said. “There’s a sense of wandering in and out and stumbling in and out. It’s a cool atmosphere.”
To attend the festival, either donate online to receive an all-access pass or pay any amount at “homebase,” which will be located at the patio at the intersection of North Front Street and Wall Street in Kingston.
It’s not a system based on the government telling us what next health care system will look like. It’s something we’re doing right now for each other. – Joe Concra, O+ co-founder
O+ hosts local and global artists alike. For example, this year’s muralists are from Kingston and Albuquerque. Participating musicians also hail from all over, including New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Florida.
This year’s music headliner is Amanda Palmer, who will play the back room of BSP Kingston on Friday night. New Paltz-based jazz band Keys to the Moon will also play the festival on Sunday.
Amid the party, Concra encourages festival-goers to remember they are supporting a larger cause. The real change will happen behind the scenes at Old Dutch Church, where various clinics will be set up exclusively for the participating artists, musicians and super volunteers who commit over eight hours. There will also be a wellness expo available for the public audience to learn about local nonprofits and health businesses.
“You’re not just coming to a festival, you’re helping a revolution in healthcare,” Concra said. “Money does not exchange hands. It’s not a system based on the government telling us what next health care system will look like. It’s something we’re doing right now for each other.”
Newburgh-based hip-hop artist Decora performed at the festival two years ago. On Sept. 23, he returned to BSP Kingston for O+ Check-Up, a concert to benefit the upcoming festival.
“They’re giving free health care to artists and even if it’s only for a day, that’s more than somebody’s getting in five years,” he said. “I think it’s beautiful that you have doctors, you have dentists, you have chiropractors, massage therapists all volunteering their time to help these artists.”
O+ Festival will take place on Oct. 6-8. Visit opositivefestival.org/kingston for information on venues, line-ups and more about the action-packed weekend.