The recent O+ Festival for art, music, and health in uptown Kingston (Oct. 8-10) successfully brought much-needed health care to a number of local, uninsured artists and musicians. For the event, buildings were adorned wheat-paste murals of scenes and phrases depicting the struggles of the country’s many uninsured citizens; while local bands and musicians played at a variety of venues throughout the city. Instead of being compensated with money, all participating artists and performers were able to have their health concerns treated by local professionals, including MDs, chiropractors, opthamologists, dentists, massage therapists, and others.
“People were getting the care they’ve needed for years that they couldn’t afford,” says cofounder Alexandra Marvar. “One band visited a dentist who filled more than 10 cavities between the band members.”
Marvar, a 26-year-old musician from Kingston, explained that the idea stemmed from the actions of Dr. Thomas Cingel, DDS; the dentist wanted a particular band to play in the Kingston area so much that he offered the members dental work in exchange for their performance.
“We wanted to take that idea further,” Marvar says, “ so a bunch of us got together, brainstormed some ideas and developed the plan for the festival. We thought it could help other artists who need care, help practitioners who want to give back but aren’t sure how, and help the community by sharing art and bringing tourism.”
Immediately, Dr. Art Chandler — an MD who’s also a musician — joined in the cause.
“There were just a few months from concept to show time; I only signed on in June,” Dr. Chandler says. “Through my connections I was able to find some other local health care providers who wanted to give back to the arts community — to offer our services for the artist’s services.”
Within walking distance from the performance, nearly 35 medical and holistic care providers bartered their services with participants. A separate health fair was also set up to provide free information and screenings.
Cofounder Joe Concra says he was overwhelmed by the festival’s positive results. “Dr. Art helped save someone’s life the first night,” Concra says. “He suggested a woman have her blood pressure checked; turned out she needed to go to a hospital immediately. Even just helping one person made the whole thing worth it.”
The organizers hope that the success of this festival will serve as a good model for other towns and cities trying to organize their own similar event. “Many of us devoted enough time to make it a second day job, but it worked; we actually made the barter system work,” Marvar says. “And if we could find people so willing to work together, we know other communities can, too.”