Inspirational murals and yoga for mom. Wellness seminars and Lagunitas craft beer for dad. Funk rock bands and a New Orleans-style parade for the teens. Scavenger hunts and bike rides for the little kids.
There will be something for your entire family to enjoy at the 8th annual O+ Festival in Kingston on October 6-8. O+ (pronounced O-positive) was founded in 2010 in Kingston, NY by a small group of artists, doctors and one dentist. Today, O+ builds long-term relationships between creatives and health & wellness providers to help strengthen local communities. Underinsured artists and musicians create and perform in exchange for a variety of services donated by doctors, dentists and complementary care providers. “We all know our health care system doesn’t work. We’re all tired of politics, and we have a chance here in a weekend to forego all of that and care for each other,” said Micah Blumenthal, O+ Creative Director.
This October the celebration will include over 50 bands, 20 visual & performance artists, and the creation of 7 murals throughout Kingston. The ticket price to attend the festival is ‘pay what you can’. The weekend will begin Friday night with a festive, New Orleans-style parade where life-size puppets will dance along with costumed bikers and drummers, as health care providers throw the crowd candy, dental floss and toothpaste! The venues will be a mix of restaurants, clubs, churches and museums including the Hudson River Maritime Museum, Outdated Cafe, The Anchor, Stockade Tavern, and the BSP.
“The venues will be listed on the O+ Festival map schedule, and we will give tons of O+ shout outs and social media love. In return venues are asked to think outside of the box and exchange this great publicity for food, beer, or lodging for the musicians and artists,” said Joe Concra, O+ Co-Founder & Executive Director.
"EXCHANGING THE ART OF MEDICINE FOR THE MEDICINE OF ART!”
The beautiful Old Dutch Church will magically transform into a pop-up clinic where doctors, dentists, chiropractors, hypnotists, podiatrists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists will offer complimentary care to the artists. “This goes back to, ‘Hey, doc, my tooth hurts; here’s a chicken,’ ” said Concra. Richard Buckner, an independent singer-songwriter had no medical or dental insurance, and he rang up an $8,000 dental bill after a front tooth fell out while he was on tour. Knowing the tooth was loose, he had tried to avoid singing songs with a lot of P’s and F’s. To raise money for his dental bill, he scheduled three additional tours. Soon after, O+ was able to provide Buckner with free dental services at the pop-up clinic. “Most of us are really eager to work outside of the system in anyway we can,” said Shannon Donnell, RN & Pop-Up Clinic Coordinator.
The beginning of O+ started at a party in 2010, when painter Joe Concra listened to dentist friend Dr. Thomas Cingel talk about the challenge of bringing one of his favorite bands to Kingston. How could a group of friends get a hot band to play in Kingston? Cingel had an inspiration: He could clean their teeth. The idea snowballed and other artists called their musical and medical friends to organize a Festival in which musicians and artists would perform in exchange for health care. The name for the Festival was the idea of Concra’s wife and fellow artist Denise Orzo. It referenced the blood type of the universal donor, which was thought to be O positive. The first Festival was organized in less than three months and included 35 bands, 15 visual artists, and about 50 health care providers.
Chris Turco, a musician with the band Geezer says, “To be able to show up, play your guitar, go through some paperwork and get your spine aligned, it’s pretty fantastic.”
This year’s Festival will feature over 50 bands including the San Francisco-based rock band Deerhoof, Brooklyn’s songwriter/guitarist Steve Gunn, Baltimore rap artist Abdu Ali, Brooklyn’s Air Waves, The Mammals (Americana/folk) and The Big Takeover (“Jamaica meets Motown”).
Children will be thrilled when they dance the day away to Ratboy Jr, and hockey fans will love the rock band Zambonis who sing songs about “hockey, life, love, and hockey!”
MURALS (Lovingly nicknamed: Building Tattoos)
O+ murals bring beauty to the Kingston community and everyone who passes through the city. Artists will create seven murals that adorn the walls throughout the neighborhoods of uptown, midtown and Rondout. Matthew Pleva will create a large-scale work at the Hudson River Maritime Museum. “Working with the O+ staff has been a great experience. I feel like I have my very own advertising and PR team. I get great free publicity, and it has brought me additional work. O+ chooses the location, pays for the materials, helps set up, and I just show up,” said Pleva.
Painter and illustrator Jia Sung, who assisted Jess X. Snow on 2016’s “O Wind Take Me to My Country” mural at ARTBAR Gallery on Broadway, returns to Kingston to make her first large-scale mural project as the lead artist.
Brooklyn-based mural artist Vince Ballentine, who made the Tribe Called Quest mural in Queens is looking forward to visiting the pop-up clinic. “I appreciate the opportunity to be able to take care of my body more than the money I could earn. I’d rather live a long, healthy life than be a millionaire,” said Ballentine.
The Festival will also include EXPLO+RE classes in yoga, dance, and meditation plus cycling events for all skill levels. The kids can ride their bikes past the murals on an easy path while the more skilled bikers tackle a 18-24 mile route. “Encouraging people to ride their bikes while enjoying the murals connects wellness to art,” said Kathleen Murray, O+ Chief Storyteller. There will also be an immersive theatre performance presenting multiple short plays inside one of Kingston’s historical homes. The Outdated Cafe will transform into the Festival’s Literary Salon and host a reading series and open-mic performances.
The kids won’t want to miss Valerie Sharp, a local performance artist, who plans to hug a tree for 12 hours. “I feel most at home when I’m around trees, and I spread my roots in Kingston,” said Sharp. The teens will get a kick out of Wayfinders’s Interactive Scavenger Hunt.
NEW THIS YEAR
O+ has teamed up with the Good Work Institute to present the HO+ME Economics conference (the non-profit arm of ETSY) which will be held on a barge in Rondout. Mixing inspirational and participatory talks with hands-on workshops, the format of the gathering is designed to allow for deep community building and resource/skill sharing. On Saturday, there will be inspirational talks from Judy Wicks, Laura Flanders, Matt Stinchcomb and others, participatory dialogue on building a regenerative 'home economy', a special networking luncheon, and a collaborative visioning workshop.
Do not sit home, do yard work, or run errands on what’s to be the best weekend of the fall season! Grab your entire family and head to the O+ Festival, because there is something for everyone to enjoy. As your family members meander the streets of Kingston, you just might hear the artists chanting their mantra, “APPLY PRESSURE AND ELEVATE.”