Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Julie Sokolow

Julie Sokolow is a musician, writer, and filmmaker based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the creator of the Healthy Artists documentary series, in which young creatives discuss their struggles with the American health care system.

September 26th, 2013 2:03 PM

O Positive: The Art and Medicine Exchange from NY to CA

O Positive Wristband

O Positive: The Art and Medicine Exchange from NY to CA
by Healthy Artists writer - Rachel Nagelberg

Despite Obama’s intentions to fix American health care inequality, over 45 million Americans remain uninsured. The brand new Obamacare insurance marketplace (opening Oct. 1st 2013) should fix that gruesome statistic, but many folks still worry that Obamacare’s implementation will be a far cry from universal health care. The bottom line: just because more Americans will have health insurance, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have access to actual health care.

Artists who work freelance, part-time, adjunct, and service industry jobs are accustomed to lacking health care. In 2010, a team of artists and doctors in Kingston, NY decided to do something about it. It’s called “O+” or “O Positive” – a one-of-a-kind three-day festival where artists, musicians, and filmmakers trade their creative work for health services provided by doctors, dentists, and wellness providers.

“The energy behind the concept of bartering the medicine of art for the art of medicine was inspiring,” said Dr. Chandler, a Kingston family doctor who became the head of O+ Festival’s pop-up clinic. “There were twenty or more people at every meeting, new people from every part of the community, and it didn’t seem like we could be stopped. We had a festival in five months. It was daunting, exhilarating, impossible, irresistible, exhausting, and the most rewarding thing I have ever done.” 

The brains behind O+ Festival is MICA graduate and surrealist painter, Joe Concra. Back in 2010, Concra met Tom Cingel, a dentist who mentioned he wanted to bring his favorite band to town. Cingel said that in exchange for their music, he’d clean their teeth. Concra, envisioning Cingel’s concept operating on a systemic level, started asking folks across the Kingston medical and arts communities if they would consider swapping their skills.

The overwhelmingly positive feedback of Concra’s inquiry is responsible for the O + Festival we see today – a massive, annual three-day festival featuring pop-up clinics amid live music performances, site-specific installations, and film screenings. Participants get direct access to routine physicals, massages, acupuncture, dental fillings, nutritional counseling, and more. The same visual artists who receive health services through the festival, give back by creating wheat-pasted and hand-painted murals around the town.

“A large part of our mission is to help develop our community by using existing, unused storefronts and buildings as venues,” said Concra. “We want to expose people to the neighborhood they live in or near to, but have overlooked.”

Since the start of O+ Festival, a significant number of young people and artists have flocked to Kingston, NY and started calling it home. The community is also witnessing the opening of new music venues and community centers, as well as new and developing scholarships available for local musicians.

“We are not about health insurance, but are about community assurance,” said Concra. “We prove that we are here for each other. Almost all of the things we provide are on the wellness side of the health equation.”

One of Concra and Dr. Chandler’s long-term plans is to establish a year-round, sliding-scale clinic in Kingston, NY. The clinic will double as a venue for music and art. Philosophically, O+ is dedicated to changing the current corporate detachment of the arts from medicine.

In Dr. Chandler’s words, it takes a “protean effort” from many organized individuals to pull off an event like O+ solely on volunteer support, donors, and fundraising. Recently, the O+ team created a step-by-step playbook for artists and activists who want to start an O+ Festival in their communities. The O+ diagnosis is spreading: this November 2013, will mark the first O+ Festival for San Francisco. There’s still time to sign up to volunteer.

“Our stance is that without the arts, the culture of our society will not survive. Also, without healthcare, the arts can’t possibly survive,” said Dr. Chandler. “To have art and healthcare on equal footing is not only legitimate, but logical and necessary.”

O+ Festival - Kingston, NY will take place from October 11th through 13th 2013. O+ Festival - San Francisco, CA will take place from November 15th through 17th 2013. Learn more about how to participate in or start an O+ Festival near you.

Creative Commons License This content is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? Ray McGovern Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity Donna Smith The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles