Art for the sake of art? Sure. But what about healthcare for the sake of art? For the past seven years the O+ (O Positive) Festival has done just that: it joins local artists in need of healthcare with medical and wellness professionals willing to donate their time, in what the festival organizers call “exchanging the art of medicine for the medicine of art.” During the three-day event, artists do their thing — performing and creating for festival guests — and in return, they receive medical and wellness services provided by participating professionals.
According to the festival’s executive director, painter Joe Concra, it all started back in 2010 when he was approached by a dentist at a party. “He handed me a beer and said he would bring a band to Kingston and clean their teeth. As an artist with no health insurance at the time, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, who else would do this?’”
A lot of folks, apparently. This year’s lineup, taking place in Kingston from October 6-8, will feature 50 bands and musicians and more than 20 visual and performing artists. Artists and musicians will receive health and wellness services while the festival goes on, and the general public will have a chance to enjoy the expo and learn about the various services the participants provide. The idea turned out to be so popular, in fact, it has become contagious, with secondary festivals popping up as near as Poughkeepsie and as far as Petaluma, CA.
Photo by Ethan Harrison
Concra says something unique happens when artists and healthcare providers — folks often from very different backgrounds — get together and meet each other outside of the typical doctor’s office setting. It breaks down barriers and creates an environment in which healing can happen without the onus of an invoice.
“We stop seeing each other in our professions,” Concra says, “and instead start seeing one another as members of the community.”
Concra also wants people to know that the festival itself is just one part of the overall effort. “We’re a year-round organization, which I think a lot of people don’t know,” he says. “And the festival is sort of a celebration of our year-round efforts now.”
For more information, including information on obtaining an all-access wristband, how to make a donation, or how to participate in future events, visit www.opositivefestival.org