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O+ Festival’s Year in Review: 2014 Characterized by Expansion

Festival earns non-profit status while adding mO+re cities, mO+re programming, mO+re care

Kingston, N.Y.-based artist Micah Blumenthal brought his "109 Lines of Communication" to the O+ Festival in Petaluma, Calif.
Kingston, N.Y.-based artist Micah Blumenthal brought his “109 Lines of Communication” to the O+ Festival in Petaluma, Calif.

It’s finally time to exhale. 2014 was an extraordinary year for the non-profit O+ Festival, which is dedicated to enhancing community well-being by connecting musicians, artists and health & wellness providers in weekend-long celebrations.

“O+ had a amazing year and so many compelling stories of wellness and connection have been told and will continue to be told,” says Executive Director Joe Concra. “We are all volunteers in this experiment in the gifting of art and music for wellness services.

In late spring, the IRS granted non-profit 501(c)(3) status to the organization, thanks to the work of Pro Bono Partnership. The designation means donations are now tax deductible and will provide the foundation for the Festival’s future growth and expansion. And 2014 was a year of tremendous growth for O+, which celebrated its fifth year in Kingston, N.Y., and second year in the Bay Area, this time in Petaluma, Calif.

“We have had thousands of clinic visits since we began 5 years ago, but beyond that we have made real human connections between artists, musicians, providers, neighbors and businesses, and we look forward to creating a space for that to happen across the country in 2015,” Concra says. “O+ is everyone’s festival and we are honored to help guide it and help it grO+w!”

Kingston during its Festival hosted a team of artists and musicians from Chicago, who will be launching an O+ Festival in their city (around 18th Street and Ashland) in September of 2015.

“I saw Joe’s TEDxTalk and was extremely inspired,” says O+ Chicago co-founder artist Amy Jo Arndt. To stay up-to-date and volunteer with the planning of O+ Chicago, please Like its Facebook page.

The 2014 Kingston O+ Festival hosted artists and musicians from Chicago, who launch a Festival there in 2015: Amy Jo Arndt, Cheryl Casden, Jody Casden & Josh Reisz.
The 2014 Kingston O+ Festival hosted Chicago-based artists Amy Jo Arndt, Cheryl Casden, Jody Casden & Josh Reisz, who will launch a Festival in the Windy City in 2015.

O+ volunteer Micah Blumenthal, a Kingston-based artist, graphic designer, percussionist and yoga instructor, participated in both Kingston and Petaluma festivals with his “109 Lines of Communication” public art.

“There were plenty of differences, but it’s the similarities that say more — both are strong communities committed to solving their problems,” Blumenthal says. “My work was about communication, about fun and exploration, and this seemed to matter to any who were willing to take the time. It was amazing to see so many interact so positively with my work, and the occasional destruction was cool to see too.”

Blumenthal last year received much-needed and long overdue dental care during O+.

“This year I saw a doctor and got a physical for the first time in 17 years and my first massage ever,” he says. “It (O+) not only provided me with care, but there is a presence surrounding the Festival and all of those who give, that made me take the opportunity and the care I have ignored for years.”

This year 20 artists and 55 musicians as well as 44 volunteers received health and wellness care at the O+ clinic in Kingston over the 3-day festival, which drew a crowd of about 2,200. Among the practitioners were nurses, primary care doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, energy workers, a psychiatrist, a naturopath as well as a team from the Institute for Family Health.

Visionary artist Xavi Panneton participated in the 2014 O+ Festival in Petaluma, Calif.
Visionary artist Xavi Panneton participated in the 2014 O+ Festival in Petaluma, Calif.

Eli Morales, ND, was among those who donated time and talent Oct. 10-13.

“This is a great opportunity to give back and to help artists be healthy,” Morales says. “It’s kind of my mission as a naturopathic doctor is to help people feel free and achieve a sense of wholeness again. Singers are often on the road; it’s hard for them to be healthy, and so I’m doing my best to support them on their journeys.”

Sarah Tae L.Ac., C.M.T., who provided acupuncture services to artists and musicians at the 2014 festival in Petaluma, came away from the weekend with a true feeling of kinship.

“It helps us to connect deeper with ourselves when we learn to connect with others,” Tae says. “Everybody is a mirror and we remind each other of our own humanity.”

Tae was among the providers who donated their time and expertise to the 22 artists, 106 musicians and 78 volunteers at the Petaluma festival. Nearly 400 clinic visits took place during the Nov. 7-9 weekend, which drew about 600 visitors and participants. Services offered included massage, energy work, primary care, acupuncture, podiatry, chiropractic care, dental, optometry, mental health, audiology, light therapy and nutrition. An additional 16 vouchers for dental care were distributed to artists based in nearby San Francisco and Oakland.

Dental hygienist Katie Schiller treated O+ Festival volunteer Elissa Jane Mastel during the 2014 Festival in Kingston, N.Y.
Dental hygienist Katie Schiller treated O+ Festival volunteer Elissa Jane Mastel during the 2014 Festival in Kingston, N.Y.

Petaluma headliner musician and performer Morgan Sorne received wellness care at this year’s Bay Area Festival.

“To have these practitioners appreciate what I do and offer their services, it makes you feel like what you’re doing has value,” he says.

Petaluma is the home of national sponsor Lagunitas Brewing Company, which continues to increase its financial and marketing support for the Festival’s mission. During the fall, O+ Festival went CouchTrippin’ with Lagunitas to New Orleans.

“There was O+ presence everywhere,” says David Green, who heads up national marketing and events for the Festival. “I think we created some awesome connections along the way.”

O+ Festival in 2014 received excellent national media coverage, including a Details piece and a Hartford Courant profile of Richard Buckner. Leonard Nevarez, in his review of this year’s Kingston festival, said the “concept is, in a word, genius.” And the Christian Science Monitor named the non-profit one of “7 Groups Making Communities More Compassionate.”

To make a financial contribution to the mission and work of the non-profit O+ Festival, please visit our DO+nation page.