The theme of the fourth annual O+ Festival – a three-day extravaganza of music, art and wellness in Uptown Kingston, in which artists and performers receive free health care in exchange for their participation – is scale, as in “scaled up.” Not only does the Festival feature more artists than ever – 40 in total, working in the media of paint, sculpture, dance, performance art and video, in addition to dozens of musicians – and a new wellness center, but some of the pieces, such as the mural by internationally famous street artist Gaia, are literally gigantic. Wielding a spray-paint can and perched on a hydraulic lift dozens of feet above the street, the artist has been painting the monumental image of the Ephesian Artemis, the ancient fertility goddess with multiple breasts and outstretched arms, on the rear brick wall of BSP.
A second enormous mural is being painted on the rear wall of the Columbia Beauty Supply building by Kimberly Kae, assisted by her husband, Matt DiFrancesco. A third outdoor mural will be painted on the side of microbrewery Keegan Ales by the artist LMNOPi. The sight of the murals in progress has been an eye-catcher. “One of the things we want to do is bring more art into the community. It’s been really heartwarming to see people of all ages walking by Crown Street being curious about what’s going on,” said Denise Orzo, one of the festival’s founders and volunteer organizers. “It’s great to see the process and watch the development of these pieces. We’re going large-scale.”
A ticket for the entire weekend of events costs $25, unchanged from before. In the past, much of the visual art consisted of temporary mural-sized graphics wheat-pasted onto the sides of buildings. There will still be eight of those – pieces that, thanks to the nearly 100 high-quality visual-arts submissions, will be fantastic, Orzo said. But the large-scale permanent murals are new: a more lasting legacy for the city. “A lot of resources have gone into renting lifts and getting paint,” said Orzo. “We’ve gotten contributions from Herzog’s and Rhinebeck Artists’ Shop.”
Also new this year are the dance events. Zamboni will present a piece specially choreographed for the “rotunda” of Hudson Valley Coffee Traders, titled The Museum of Narrow Spaces. The Energy Dance Company and POOK (Percussion Orchestra of Kingston), the Kingston-based youth hip-hop and percussive groups, will perform at Academy Green, the sliver of park flanked by Albany Avenue, Main Street and Clinton Avenue.
So many happenings are scheduled for Academy Green that the new festival venue constitutes a mini-art carnival in itself. They include John Walter’s True Mirror Palace, a series of ceiling-to-floor reverse mirrors inside a tent that reflects back your image the way that people see you, with your left side on the left; Tyler Borchert’s found stone and driftwood sculptures; an interactive play by Sophie Reiff, which Orzo described as “exciting and abstract”; a dream-painting workshop by Pauline Oliveros and Ione’s Deep Listening Institute on the Green; the Art Bus; and food trucks.
Linda Montano will be back this year with her popular art/life counseling, setting up shop in the store window of the Outdated Café on Saturday. Sigrid Sarda’s hospital-room tableau featuring a waxwork of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, the pioneer of sanitary handwashing, which led to a drastic reduction of deaths in the maternity ward, will occupy the storefront window of Tech Smith’s, a business that recently opened next to Boitson’s, on North Front. “We spend so much time staring at screens that to be confronted with a facsimile of ourselves can be disturbing,” noted Orzo.
Over in the yard of the Old Dutch Church, Sophi Kravitz will erect a red-lighted geodesic dome furnished with yoga mats and an oximeter: a biofeedback device that regulates and modulates the visitor’s heart beat with flashing lights, according to Orzo. The space may feel womblike, but your heartbeat will be broadcast to the world. Across the street, in the window of Burgevin Florist, Mick Farrell will explore the loss of privacy and intimacy in his multimedia piece Grave of the Future: Never Say Goodbye, which incorporates a video monitor. More videos will be screened at Outdated, including two short films of artists Joan Steiner and Hans Witschi by Stephen Blauweiss and Montano’s new piece, Nurse Nurse, which explores her melding of life and art. Dear Governor Cuomo, the concert film protesting fracking in New York State, will be screened on Saturday evening and Sunday, followed by a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Jon Bowermaster on Sunday.
Over at BSP, Cave Dogs will show their sound/shadow/live action projection, and Hudson-based Kris Perry will perform his large-scale kinetic sound piece on repurposed machine parts accompanied by several musicians deep inside the bowels of the former theater. Finishing up the Festival on Sunday night will be competitions by BRAWL (Broads’ Regional Arm-Wrestling League), a group of female arm-wrestlers who each take on a character, accompanied by an entourage, that milks the sport for all its theatrical appeal.
There will also be a new wellness center called EXPLO+RE, located in the third-floor gym at St. Joseph’s School. The mini-yoga retreat will be available on Saturday and Sunday to all wristband-holders as part of the $25 festival fee. Besides yoga classes, there will be gong baths (a sound-healing therapy that’s popular), Indonesian dance, Qigong and other types of therapeutic movement.
This year’s Festival also features more dental and medical practitioners at the artists’ clinic, located at the Kirkland Hotel. “Everyone wants dental, and this year many more dentists are on board, so we can meet that need more than in the past,” said Orzo, noting that it was one of the volunteer dentists, Dr. Thomas Cingel, who came up with the initial idea for the Festival. She added that concerns that the Affordable Healthcare Act might impact the Festival in the future are unfounded, due to the Festival’s focus on wellness. Stress reduction, which has been proven to save lives, is a popular feature of the clinic, with various types of massage offered.
2013 is also the first year that the O+ Festival goes national, with a sister event planned in San Francisco next month. A Kingston transplant to the Bay Area helped organize that event, and Orzo said that her husband and Festival co-founder Joe Concra along with a team put together a playbook, based on feedback from the various committee members, which was sent to San Francisco as a helpful template.
One of the paybacks for the months of work that she and other volunteers put into organizing the Festival is seeing “people just smiling and feeling elevated,” she said. “Beyond getting people health care who need it, bringing art into the community and having it recognized as a really important part of our well-being is important to me personally.”
The blossoming of the community and the renewed appreciation for Kingston is also gratifying. “So many musicians and artists who have performed here have moved up from Brooklyn. Kingston is really friendly. It’s nice to know your neighbors and have a walkable community of intelligent, interesting and creative people.”
O+ Festival, Friday-Sunday, October 11-13, $25, Uptown Kingston; kingston.opositivefestival.org.