O+ Arts Festival in NY – Health Support for Artists

Update November 13, 2012:

Almost 2,000 people attended the 3rd Annual O+ Festival held in the Historic Stockade District of Uptown Kingston from October 5th through 7th this year. The Festival whose tagline is “Bartering the Art of Medicine for the Medicine of Art,” is based on the provision of free health access to all participating artists and musicians. Bands such as the Felice Brothers performed, and public artwork was displayed throughout Uptown Kingston. In total there were 40 bands, 41 artists, 58 healthcare providers, and 4 dentists. There were 443 hours of care donated, totaling $69,450 worth of free health access. Amazing coverage for this groundbreaking event helped to make this year a tremendous success. All of the money raised goes toward the provision of medical supplies for the event. For more information on O+ or to learn how to become involved next year, please visit:

One of the most dire problems in the art world is the sheer lack of health service assistance that artists have access to. This is not an acceptable way for a professional artist to live. The risks they take are major; the odds are not in their favor. Artists who depend on their work for income need to find a way for their health to be supported.

Tom Cingel


Enter O+, a new festival that was started by a dentist, a doctor, and a couple of artists – all friends – in Kingston, NY (near Woodstock). Their idea is quite simple: Artists come to the festival to perform or show their art, and are ‘paid’ with health care of all kinds ranging from physical therapy, blood tests, dentistry, eye exams and the like. Covering everyone’s healthcare is no simple matter, but much success has been had with the festival thus far. It marks the beginning of a solution to the artist healthcare problem.

Past participating visual artists include: Mike Egan, Thom Grady, Jessica Harrison, Polly M. Law, Denise Orzo, Geddes Jones Paulsen, Kevin Paulsen, Anthony Pontius, Scott Holloway and many others.

Artists can apply to get their artwork into the festival, but it’s highly competitive. The best way to get involved is to volunteer and still get access to some of the health services offered. For details on volunteering, check out the site here.

Taking part in any way means spending Columbus Day weekend in October up in Kingston, NY, which is a short two-hour drive north of Manhattan with bus services leading directly into the heart of the festival. If attending is not feasible for you, spreading the word will help call attention to the festival and help it grow so that more artists can be helped. You may want to consider starting a version of the festival in your city.

Snake image by Paul Heath /// Photos by Jason Sebastian Russo

O+ is only about to hit its third birthday – it’s still young and small. Because of the attention it’s gotten (TED, Wall St Journal, Huff Post, Bloomberg Business Week and others), and because its volunteers are VERY passionate about its cause, it really has the potential of reaching very far and wide.

For more info go to O+’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as their website.

Check out some of the street art from previous years’ festivals:

Scott Holloway presides over a cemetary

Shooting girl by Denise Orzo /// yellow sign by a student in the Lafayette College Art Department

Bonnie Smith (detail)

Mike Egan

Andy Milford

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply