The first-ever celebration of music, arts and medicine included 18 venues in and around Uptown which showcased musical and visual talents and curiosities. Scores of musicians and artists from both the area and places more far-flung lent their talents. Fest-goers could hear folk, a string ensemble, a piano brunch and spoken word, all in the space of a city block. Saturday night’s performance of Tracy Bonham and Mike + Ruthy crammed Keegan Ales chock full.
Throughout the week, visitors to Kingston were treated with politically pointed paste-up art as temporary murals appeared around Uptown Kingston. One of the most provocative images of fresh lash marks on a man’s naked, turned back — seemingly in shame — hovered prominently over Maxwell’s Café on North Front Street; on John Street was a giant human heart, with birds flying into the veins and out of the arteries. Other murals included commentary on health insurance, disease and wellness, echoing the festival’s overarching theme of addressing the challenges artists (and everybody else) faces in a country where its citizens have do for themselves when it comes to health care.
“I like the art work, it’s something I would like to see continue beyond O+ because it gives uptown a little zip,” said Half-Moon Books owner Jessica DuPont.
The temporary clinic set up in the Kirkland hotel consisted of 35-40 medical care providers such as chiropractors, general practitioners, orthopedists, dentists, occupational and physical therapists, addictions counselors, acupuncturists and other alternative wellness providers, coordinated by Dr. Arthur Chandler, the director of Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson. Chandler said that the very first patient he saw at the clinic was a 75-year-old woman with blood pressure soaring at a whopping 235/120, requiring immediate medical intervention. More than 70 uninsured musicians and artists were in receipt of services, many receiving three services each. According to Chandler, the Institute for Family Health signed up a dozen people for follow-up care as well.
Kingston dentist Dr. Tom Cingel, whose original request to a band to exchange music for services was the genesis of the festival, provided more than $20,000 of free dental work. Chandler, Cingel, Joe Concra, Alex Marvar and Concra’s wife, Denise Orzo, orchestrated the network of musicians, artists and medical community.
Chandler, a devoted arts and music lover, elaborated on how the experience of “giving back” to the very community from which he feels he has received so much to be deeply gratifying. Everyone was immediately cooperative, he noted. “No business and no government; nothing but people’s hearts were involved.”
Chandler also participated in the seven hour spoken word Gland-a-thon performance, “speaking defensively” (wink, nod) for the adrenal system. “We are creating access to arts, music and health care; all of these things have value, and are worth exchange,” noted Chandler. “It’s been the most rewarding four months of my career. I haven’t seen anyone leave without smiling and believing they are of value.”
One such beaming musician is Martha’s Vineyard resident Nina Violet, who was in Cingel’s dentist chair for over an hour and a half, getting more than she bargained for. Cingel repaired several broken teeth and corrected the discoloration of others. Violet, who performed four times during the weekend, said that she hadn’t seen the dentist in over eight years, and though she had no cavities, still required repairs. “I’m kind of amazed,” she marveled. “I can’t bite my nails, and I have no more built-in thread cutters, but now I can really smile.”
After covering expenses, some of the leftover monies raised will be donated to the Queen’s Galley soup kitchen and Angel Food East. “The remainder of the money will be used to fund the production and printing of an O+ book with a compilation CD of bands that performed, interviews with doctors and artists, photos from the event, and a retrospective exhibition catalogue re: the visual art, as well as starting on promotional costs for next year and funding any events we want to have in the interim between the first and second annual festivals,” said event organizer Alexandra Marvar. “We hope to host some events shows under the auspices of O+ between now and next fall.”
Organizers have received calls from several interested entities in different cities around the country to help them launch O+ festivals of their own. For more information, visit opositivefestival.org