Think positive, act local

(Photo by Julie O’Connor)

You know that you’re doing something right when you catch Oprah’s eye. Last week, the influential arbiter of fully lived lives gave a shout-out to Kingston’s O+ Festival on Life Lift: the Oprah Blog. Pronounced “Oh-Positive,” the O+ Festival is a three-day gathering wherein musicians and artists barter their talents in exchange for medical, dental and other wellness services to which they would not otherwise have access. In the words of its organizers, it’s about “bartering the art of medicine for the medicine of art.”

The third annual O+ Festival takes place Friday through Sunday, October 5 to 7 in Kingston. All-access, all-weekend Festival wristbands cost $25, available online at Overall, 40 different musical acts will take the stage during the three-day event, and the visual arts will be represented in art installations and performances. A “story-slam” will be held on Saturday, October 6 at 8:30 p.m. at Backstage Studio Productions (BSP) Lounge on Wall Street, where contestants will compete for a free massage by sharing their three-minute-or-less original monologues on the topic “Strange Medicine: From Bad to Worse.” A Health Expo, community yoga classes and other wellness events, along with kids’ music and a parade, will round out the weekend’s activities. A full schedule of events and locations is available online.

In exchange for their talents, musicians, artists and volunteers will receive a screening of their health needs in an on-site weekend clinic during the Festival, plus vouchers for follow-up office visits and case-by-case continued care as needed via participating non-profits and residency programs. Artists will have access to general MDs, occupational therapists, physical and sports therapists, dentists, orthopedists, massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and addiction counseling. O+ Health’s long-term goal is to develop a model for all communities, wherein perpetual health care for artists can become a reality.

According to co-founder Alexandra Marvar, it’s “one small community’s Band-Aid solution to inaccessible health care for artists and musicians.” The idea is gathering steam nationwide, however, as a creative, do-it-yourself solution to the health care crisis that affects everyone in this country – especially those who work but who have careers that aren’t backed up by traditional company-sponsored benefits. As any working artist – performing or visual – can tell you, life in the arts ain’t for the faint of heart; and applause is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

The organizers are now working on making a template of sorts for the O+ Festival (named for the blood type), so that other communities nationwide can take the idea into their hometowns and run with it.

The third annual O+ Festival takes place Friday through Sunday, October 5 to 7 in Kingston. A full schedule of events and locations is available online at $25 is the cost for an all-access, all-weekend wristband, available for purchase online. Advance purchase guarantees admission to the opening kickoff concert with the Felice Brothers.

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