We made the front page of the NYTs Arts section!
The three-day festival, which began on Friday, pairs musicians and visual artists with doctors, dentists and other health advisers who donate their services through a pop-up clinic. Joe Concra, a painter who helped start the festival three years ago in Kingston, N.Y., describes the exchange of art for health treatment as a barter system that recalls a time before co-pays and H.M.O.’s.Four years ago, a small band of artists, musicians and doctors in Kingston, NY got together to create the O+ Festival, an art, music and wellness event where participants are compensated with health and wellness services.
“This goes back to, ‘Hey, doc, my tooth hurts; here’s a chicken,’ ” Mr. Concra said. The festival estimates that about $100,000 worth of music, art and health services were exchanged at the most recent edition, in Kingston last month. (It expanded to San Francisco for the first time this year.)
In the national debate over health care and the Affordable Care Act, one sliver of the population has received relatively little attention: musicians, artists and other creative workers, who are often self-employed and frequently uninsured. A recent survey by two arts groups found that 43 percent of artists of all kinds said they had no health insurance; for musicians, the number was 53 percent. The national average, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, is 17.7 percent.
Healthcare for artists is a difficult proposition these days at best. The O+ Festival is designed as a grass-roots, band-aid solution to accessible healthcare for the creative community.
“Artists are not only being pushed out, but they’re not able to get the healing they deserve,” Concra told the Guardian, saying the first festival was such a hit that it took on a life of its own. “Once we do it, once people go, then they really get it. And it goes back to the age-old idea of trade.”The fourth O+ Festival in Kingston took place last month. The first O+ Festival outside of Kingston is happening this weekend (starting tonight!) in San Francisco.
Long before modern health insurance debacles, doctors and dentists were members of their communities, and people would pay them with whatever they had to offer. But today, larger and larger companies providing care in collaboration with insurance companies, even the basic community clinic is becoming a thing of the past.
“We’re breaking down that access to care barrier, because some many people don’t know where to start,” Concra said, saying he was surprised at the flood gates opened by his simple idea. “Now, we’re at the point where we have 220 bands applies for 40 spots...We were not prepared for the amount of need in the artist community.”
Need more background? Here's musician Richard Buckner performing and talking about why the O+ Festival is so important. (Richard played O+ Kingston in 2012 and received $700 in dental care that weekend.)
Admission is $15 for a single day and $25 for all three days.
Hope to see you there!