O Positive Festival returns to Kingston this weekend

A century or two ago, country doctors were likely to take a good portion of their pay in things like chickens and vegetables.

Today, the idea of bartering for healthcare is alive and well in our own backyard -- and attracting a lot of attention, thanks to the artists, musicians, healthcare providers and other folks behind Kingston's O+ festival, now in its second year. The festival starts Friday, October 7, and continues through Sunday, October 9.

The concept of O+ is simple: Get a bunch of local healthcare providers to agree to barter their services for art and music, find artists who want to participate, and throw a massive citywide party. Last year, the idea proved to be a smashing success, and the festival attracted plenty of attention from local and national press.

This year's festival is "better, not bigger," said co-organizer Alexandra Marvar, who said the festival organizers had more applicants than one weekend could cram in, both performers and local healthcare providers.

"There are more doctors than we can even put to use in our weekend clinic," she said.

Marvar said that 90 musicians applied for about 25 performance slots. Also participating in the festival are over 40 local healthcare providers, ranging from the New Age to the strictly medical-establishment, who have agreed to treat the performers at a weekend clinic. There will also be a public health seminar on Saturday afternoon, with free yoga and meditation offered to festivalgoers.

This year's musical lineup includes a few imported delicacies as well as favorites of the local music scene. Among the highlights: Nationally acclaimed singer-songwriters Willy Mason and Nicole Atkins will take the stage at Keegan Ales on Friday night. Local folksters Mike + Ruthy will be curating an acoustic showcase at the Old Dutch Church on Saturday evening, featuring Ida, the Lonesome Sisters and Spirit Family Reunion. And late Saturday night, Philadelphia rockers TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb will shake the Stockade Tavern with their fiery brand of scrappy, foot-stomping alt-country.

Throughout the festival (and beyond), the city of Kingston will become the canvas for public art installations. Private building owners across the city have agreed to host O+ wheatpaste art -- some of which, Marvar said, required a rented cherrypicker truck to paste up. There will also be sculptural art installations, including a 50-foot red jute structure erected by artist Lisa Lozano in the Old Dutch Church cemetery.

The local film Marwencol, winner of "Best Documentary Feature" at last year's Woodstock Film Festival, will be screening on Sunday afternoon, at the LGBTQ Community Center.  (See trailer below).

The whole weekend starts with a bang at 6pm on Friday: A samba parade will wend its way from the Kirkland Hotel through uptown Kingston, featuring Lady Esther Gin (possibly on a horse), the Bard College Sambistas and the Gypsy Sky Brassband.

If this all sounds like a rollicking good time -- well, that's the idea. But beyond the festivity, there's a very serious purpose to O+: Finding creative ways to get healthcare to artists, many of whom are uninsured and have little access to healthcare.

Marvar said that the festival is an effort to get beyond the political posturing of the American healthcare debate and do something concrete to address the problem, even if only for a few days.

"It's really practical activism. We're just taking a pretty small sliver of the massive American problem and saying, 'Let's actually address this to the best of our ability,'" she said. "This is an apolitical thing we're doing. While the government sorts out its problems, here's this community that's going to be over here in the corner, taking care of ourselves."

2011 O+ Festival. Various locations around Kingston. Friday, October 7 through Sunday, October 9. $25 suggested donation gets you a wristband good for access to all O+ events throughout the weekend. For a full schedule and locations of all art works and performances, see the schedule below, or check the O+ festival website.

2011 O+ Festival Schedule 2