In CO+nversation: WO+rd, writers, and pushing creative boundaries

Every O+ Festival brings together a genre-defying blend of artists, musicians, creatives, and wellness practitioners. Throughout the three-day festival, you might see a punk band, catch a modern dance performance, sit for a gong bath on your way to a hip-hop set, see public art created by legendary street artists as well as elementary school students, or participate in a group meditation led by a world-renowned poet (or all of the above). 

In that vein, our beloved Literary Salon – now called WO+rd – continues to test and expand the boundaries of the written and spoken word. Each year, facilitators Carolita Johnson and Cris Livecchi aim to create an eclectic gathering of established and emerging voices, playing with form and structure to deliver an intimate, one-of-a-kind experience. 

Carolita Johnson

Both Carolita and Cris got involved with O+  early in the festival’s history. Johnson, a writer, illustrator, and cartoonist for The New Yorker, first got connected with O+ when she moved to Kingston in 2015 and applied to be part of the festival. Livecchi, the creator of the serial Radio Wiltwyck and a co-owner of World’s End Comics in Uptown Kingston, first participated in the Literary SalO+n in 2014 and then returned the next year to emcee the event. 

Back then, Cris says that the Literary SalO+n operated almost like an open mic, with a few writers specifically invited to come up and perform at the former Outdated Cafe. “It was sort of like the Wild West,” Cris remembers. “That was really fun.” 

Carolita adds that after her first O+ experience, she was hooked. “It was so amazing that of course, I wanted to be part of it every year, even if I didn’t formally apply to the festival,” she says. “So even if I’m not officially in [the festival], I’m in it.”

At the writer’s showcase, you can never quite know what to expect (and that’s how Cris and Carolita like it.) You might stumble in during a session with a “rock n’ roll therapist,” who writes and performs on-the-spot ditties to respond to audience members’ relationship woes. Or hear spoken word backed by a live band. Or get a personalized haiku, typed up for you on the spot. Carolita recalls a festival favorite in 2017 when then-Dutchess County Poet Laureate Bettina “Poet Gold” Wilkerson performed, saying how she stood out as both a fabulous writer but also someone who showed up to support her fellow performers. For Cris, one of the most memorable readings happened during the 2021 festival, when most events were held outdoors due to Covid restrictions. 

Cristopher Livecchi

“We did the Literary SalO+n outside in the Old Dutch Church cemetery and we had a fantastic slate of writers, all of whom were just incredible,” he says. “But doing it in the cemetery, in the open air, just really stands out for me…after all these years, I still feel really lucky to be surrounded by people who are way more talented than me.”

As both Cris and Carolita got more involved in running the event, they started to reimagine how the Literary SalO+on might evolve. Where formerly, writers were invited to perform, Cris and Carolita shifted to the submission process that other festival alumni follow to cast a wider net and attract more writers from different backgrounds, as well as people working in different mediums. 

“In the beginning, it was hard to find a lot of folks who weren’t all the same people over and over again,” Carolita says. “We’ve really been making an effort to reach out to a lot of people and hear a lot of voices, and a range of forms as well.”

The latter part can be tricky when you’re curating a literary salon – the terminology itself can feel overly formal and exclusive, neither of which is an accurate representation of the ethos of the event. It was partially for this reason that the Literary SalO+n was rebranded as WO+rd in 2023. 

Last year also marked a bit of an inflection point for the beloved writer’s showcase: in addition to officially rebranding and renaming the event to reflect a more expansive interpretation of the medium, for the first time, the format included more multimedia elements and several spotlight events, including readings by local legend Richard Buckner and renowned poet Mahogany L. Browne.

“I think [2023] is the first year we came into ourselves,” Carolita says. 

When looking at submissions, Carolita says they’re open to a variety of interpretations on the festival theme, so long as they’re word-based and creative. “To me, ‘literary’ sounds highfalutin, but maybe ‘writerly’ is a better way to say it,” she says. “There are so many ways of being writerly that I like seeing how people find different ways to do it. So that’s I think what we seek a lot of.”

For writers interested in submitting to WO+rd, both Carolita and Cris offer a few key pieces of advice: fill out the form completely, be as detailed as possible, and think about the festival theme in your application. 

Still writing/revising/editing the piece you want to perform? No worries! You don’t need a finished piece to submit, but it’s helpful to be able to describe the piece and any other elements of your planned performance. 

“It’s useful to be very specific when you’re submitting. Even if you haven’t started writing the thing you’re going to perform yet, we can still gauge the quality of your work from your writing sample,” Cris says. “But if we don’t have a good idea of what you’re going to perform, then we don’t know how it fits into the [festival] theme…Someone can be a great writer, but if the work that they’re proposing doesn’t have anything to do with the theme of that year then we’re a lot less likely to move them forward.”

At the same time, they encourage people to get creative and think beyond the boundaries of a traditional spoken word format. 

“I often do stuff for O+ that’s different from what I do professionally because I see the festival as an opportunity to be more experimental,” Carolita says. 

“We can’t emphasize enough how much variety we have in terms of genre and style and subject matter,” Cris adds. “That’s something we’ve tried to do as a committee so that we don’t have the same type of writer or reader show up again and again.” 

Over the years, WO+rd has hosted many amazing established writers and authors from the Hudson Valley and beyond and has become a space to highlight emerging creatives.  

“There aren’t that many spaces for unpublished writers. I like that idea of giving access to people.”

“Another thing we’re trying to juggle is the balance of published writers with more up-and-coming, newer writers who are really talented,” Cris says. “We don’t want to create a space that’s elitist where we only have big name writers or super established folks, so we want to make sure we’re bringing in younger, less experienced but equally talented people.”

WO+rd has often been the first space for some writers to share their work publicly. For Carolita, that’s part of what makes it so special. “I’ve said to Cris, ‘I want this person in because they need a place to have their voice heard, and I want this to be the place’,” she says. “There aren’t that many spaces for unpublished writers. I like that idea of giving access to people.”

Like all other artists, musicians, performers, and volunteers who participate in the O+ Festival each year, the writers of WO+rd can access a variety of healthcare and wellness services in exchange for their contributions to the festival. 

“I love [the clinic],” says Carolita. Every year I take advantage of the dental. I don’t have insurance, but even if I did [dental] would still be the one thing insurance doesn’t cover.” But, she shares, convincing cohorts of WO+rd participants to visit the clinic can be a bit of a challenge. In reflecting on the conversations she’s had with past participants over the years, she describes butting up against ideas about scarcity, about participants not feeling like they had a right to use the services, or that maybe they didn’t need them enough. 

“I had to remind them, ‘Sure, but you wouldn’t go to the dentist this year if you didn’t have this, would you?’” she says. “We’re all broke, you know? Somehow they felt like it was asking too much…I was happy that I made a few people go to the dentist last year.”

“I think it’s because so many of them sort of feel like – especially when you’re writers and you’re on stage for 10 minutes – ‘did I really earn this?’” Cris adds. “And I think one thing that we want to instill in our participants is: you’re part of the festival. You earned this. You’re here – this is what all of this is for.”

The 2024 festival theme will be announced and submissions will open in March – stay tuned to or follow O+ for more information and updates.

In CO+nversation: Andrea Maddox

If you look at the day-to-day of Andrea Maddox, you’d see a portrait of someone whose life is saturated with and built around music.

She started learning piano in early childhood and has been writing and performing music for as long as she can remember. 

Today she’s a singer and songwriter who fronts several bands and also teaches piano and voice to about 30 students per week. During the pandemic, she reignited her passion for musical theater and produced a summer music camp for kids, which culminated with the production of an original musical. What started as a lark (and, she jokes, a way to keep her kids occupied) has now been running for three seasons – in August, the group finished up a production of Madame Clementine’s Extraordinaire at Rosekill Art Farm in August.

Photo credit: Noel McGrath

Andrea plays in many bands, but her main squeeze is the five-piece Country/Americana group Andrea Maddox and the Hey Y’alls, who also played at the 2022 O+ Festival. Even though she’d been to the festival many times as an attendee (and a fixture of the opening night parade), now as an alumnus, she found an even deeper connection to community and care. 

“It was so much fun…You walk into the clinic and everyone is just like, ‘How can I help you? What do you need?’ That was great,” she says. “It just felt really special. One of my bandmates went to the dentist for the first time in years and was like, ‘Oh my god, that was amazing’.” 

She says that receiving care in the clinic, sharing meals with other festival participants, and getting to see other performers offered a truly unique experience.

“It was so nice to see fellow musicians I’ve been playing with for years performing and attending. My entire family came and we listened to all kinds of music,” she says. “It was so nice to be part of a really caring community and feel all that love – to get the love as a performer and go and see all these other musicians doing the same thing. It just had this really warm, wonderful feeling.”

Andrea knows well the push-and-pull between making a career as an artist and making ends meet, and it’s taken her a lot of trial and error to get to a place where she can sustain herself – spiritually and financially – as an artist. 

“For musicians and artists, you’re constantly having to have another job to pay for healthcare or food or rent,” she says. “Many times in my life I’ve had to quit just trying to gig and sort of do the 9-5 so I could get health insurance and actually go to a doctor or a dentist instead of just going to a clinic.”

She says those years oscillating back and forth between gigging and working a series of “regular” full-time jobs was a constant game of trade-offs. On the one hand, there was more consistent income and health insurance; she recalls one job where, once her health benefits kicked in, she spent an entire year catching up on all of the preventive care she couldn’t access before. 

On the other hand, she was miserable. 

“I felt like I was having to sacrifice the time that I could be working on my music to be drained at a day job,” she says.  “As a creative person, I feel like there’s always a choice: you can choose not to do the work, and then there are consequences…because you choose not to follow the thing that is deep inside you and crying to get out.”

For Andrea, sacrificing that creative time meant ignoring her heart’s calling, and taking away a crucial part of her own healing and coping process. Music – composing, playing, performing – gives her a way to work through her experiences and emotions and helps her find a way forward. Without that conduit, she says, her mental health suffers. 

Walking away from her steady job with benefits wasn’t easy, and she recognizes that it’s not always an option that’s available to everyone. But it was a bet on herself that she needed to make. 

“I think the older I get, the more confidence I have. And I think I also understand that we don’t have a lot of time – what we have is this time right now.”

Still, other factors, like relatively good health, improved access to care under the Affordable Care Act, and encouragement from mentors, helped her to take the leap to pursue music full-time – and keep taking it, every day. 

“I’ve had a lot of my mentors say things like, “You don’t have to do it, nobody has to do it. But it’s hard, and that’s why most people quit.’ And that voice has been in my head so much in my life because I thought, you know what? I can do hard things.”

Andrea Maddox and The Hey Y’alls recently finished their latest album, Long Drive Home, which you can stream on all the major services or hear live at their EP release show on Friday, December 15th, 2023 at The Colony in Woodstock, along with other O+ Alums The Kondrat Sisters and Yard Sale. Get your tix here. 

You can also find them online on Instagram, YouTube, and Bandcamp

In CO+nversation: Gregory Stovetop

Gregory Stovetop has a unique vantage point of the O+ Festival as an attendee, a festival alumnus, and most recently, as a member of the 2023 music committee.

He says he first picked up a bass guitar as a pre-teen after he saw his cousin learning to play, and his lifelong relationship with music and art only blossomed from there. He jokes that picking up an instrument at the age he did probably kept him out of trouble as a teenager.

“My focus was on music,” he says, reflecting on his adolescence. “It’s the community thing. It’s so vast – almost like a secret language you’re learning that only musicians know.”

He was first introduced to O+ through fellow musician, writer, and O+ alum Richard Buckner back in 2017, shortly after he’d relocated to Kingston from Brooklyn and was looking to make connections within the music community here in the Hudson Valley. He applied to O+ as a solo artist a few times and was selected to play as part of the 2022 festival.

A black and white photo of Gregory Stovetop

Even though he felt like he was familiar with the festival, having attended and volunteered during prior years, Gregory says he was surprised by what the experience was like behind the scenes.

“I didn’t understand what O+ was until I actually played the festival. I was amazed by the amount of services I got,” he says, referring to his time at the Artists’ Clinic, where all performers and volunteers access a variety of health and wellness services in exchange for their contribution to the festival.

“I just took one day. I started with my teeth cleaning, I got a chiropractic adjustment, I got a massage, and I had a shamanistic counseling session,” he adds. “Having that access alone was so huge…I don’t even know what the dollar amount equivalent to that would be.”

Greg says that spending time in the company of other performers, but also with the broader Kingston community, was equally healing.

“There was just this unity. Everything was chill, there wasn’t stress…sometimes festivals can be overwhelming because there’s too much going on,” he says. “I love that at O+ the health aspect was the objective. You play your music but also get to treat yourself to the support from this community of healthcare providers…I just loved that health was the front-and-center thing rather than a little footnote.”

He also says that the care he received at The Artists’ Clinic gave him a gentle nudge to be more proactive in certain aspects of his health. An energy work session prompted him to make some nutrition changes to better support his liver, and a routine dental cleaning made him feel like a new person.

“Dentistry is one of those things I neglect…I’m not a good flosser,” he says with a laugh. “Getting my teeth cleaned hurt but I felt like I had new teeth afterward. Just seeing somebody and getting that push was helpful.”

Greg says that he’s always been a “self-help” kind of person when it comes to his health and is often drawn to alternative and complementary therapies. But sobriety is what really pushed him to better prioritize self-care and to be more active in tending to his physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

“Before sobriety, healthcare was nonexistent – I didn’t seek it unless it was an emergency,” he says. “There was lots of neglect…in this world, it equates to money and it equates to debt and so you avoid it until you absolutely need it.”

He still often grapples with his own skepticism about our healthcare system but says that his sobriety journey taught him how to ask for help – and receive it.

“The biggest power move for me was the realization that I needed to take care of myself or I was going to burn out on all levels if I continued,” he says. “Falling or flying, there is this surrender you have to always come to.”

I love that at O+ the health aspect was the objective. You play your music but also get to treat yourself to the support from this community of healthcare providers…I just loved that health was the front-and-center thing rather than a little footnote.

Part of his self-care practice also involves being an active member of the community through volunteering, which has been a jumping-off point for him in making new friends and connections.

“I always encourage people to volunteer. Even last year when I played at the festival, I still wanted to volunteer on the days I wasn’t playing,” he laughs. “The benefit is strengthening your community…it’s hard to put in words. You meet a bunch of people you wouldn’t normally meet, and you’re bridging new relationships. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”

That attitude also drove him to join the 2023 O+ Festival music committee, a rotating team of local musicians, promoters, and creatives who help to curate each year’s lineup. Gregory says that serving on the music committee gave him a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into the festival.

“The first thing I did after going through [music] submissions was thank everybody on the committee last year for picking me because now I know how hard it is,” he laughs.

The submission-to-selection process takes around four months and involves a lot of deliberation and research. Committee members spend a lot of time poring over submission materials and links to music and past performances. For the 2023 festival, he says the committee reviewed more than 200 submissions, which they then had to curate into a lineup of 40 bands and solo artists. In keeping with O+’s mission to uplift local talent, the committee prioritizes musicians and bands from the Hudson Valley, as well as people who are in need of healthcare services.

“It’s so hard to narrow it down…you have to take yourself and your personal tastes out of it so you can think about the bigger picture,” he says. “You’re setting up a weekend of music that you want people to be excited about and have fun with at the end of the day.”

He says the experience of sitting on the music committee turned him on to a lot of cool music but also taught him a lot about how to market himself as a musician to wider audiences. For other musicians who might be interested in applying to future festivals, Greg has simple advice.

“Represent yourself down to every detail. Make sure that what you’re sending musically and video-wise is what you’re gonna serve when you come,” he says. “Just be very authentic to yourself and your mission.”

Gregory Stovetop is a visual artist and musician living and working in the Hudson Valley. You can check out his work and learn more about upcoming shows at

Join us for The DO+ctor Is In: A Benefit for O+

The Doctor Is In: A Benefit to Support O+

The Doctor Is In: A Benefit for O+

***Online ticket sales have ended, but you can still grab tickets at the door. See you tonight!

It’s a transformational year for O+: After 13 years of exchanging “the art of medicine for the medicine of art,” the O+ Festival is taking it to the next level. On Friday, August 11th, the O+ National Team will open the doors to Exchange Wellness, PLLC, a year-round exchange-based clinic providing health and wellness services to O+ alumni. 

Exchange Wellness is modeled after The Artists’ Clinic, which is at the heart of the three-day O+ Festival each year. In the Artists’ Clinic, all O+ participants and volunteers are able to access a variety of primary and complementary care services – from teeth cleaning to sound healing, and so much more in between – in exchange for their contributions to the festival and community. Exchange Wellness builds upon that model of exchange, taking the services from the three-day festival and expanding them to 365 days a year.

The community can get a first look at the clinic space at The DO+ctor Is In, O+’s annual benefit party on August 11th. 

Featuring music from !!! (Chk Chk Chk) with Tiny Blue Ghost, a silent and live art auction, delicious food from Ram’s Valley BBQ and Samosa Shack, a cash and donation bar with libations and NA beverages, and a dance party with DJ Red Lion to wrap up the night. Bring your dancing shoes and join us for a memorable evening while supporting O+ as it expands its clinic services from three days a year at the festival to 365!

Event details:

Date: August 11th, 2023
Time: 6-11 pm
Location: Keegan Ales and 36 St. James Street, Kingston NY
Tickets: $40

An Update on “Black Lives Matter” Mural at 695 Broadway

In 2020, as a local response to the murder of George Floyd, the latest in a long line of Black people killed by police, and to the broader outcry around the epidemic of racial violence and white supremacy in the U.S., three Kingston-based artists and O+ Festival alumni collaborated on a mural on the building at 695 Broadway.

In “Black Lives Matter,” Jalani Lion’s rich portraits of the late Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery are set among Dina Kravtsov’s paintings of resilient and medicinal Hudson Valley plants, with lettering by Matthew Schulze painted throughout. The image memorializes and honors Black lives, calls for an end to racial violence and police brutality, and the dismantling of systems of oppression while offering healing to those who have endured these inequities for generations. 

Though aware that the building was set to be demolished at a future date, the artists felt that it could offer a prominent, albeit temporary home to this statement of grief and call to action.

In July, Radio Kingston will move forward with the long-planned demolition of the building at 695 Broadway to create a community green space. 

“Radio Kingston’s intention is to create a public green space on the site,” says Radio Kingston Executive Director Jimmy Buff. “ We’ve been fortunate to have Jalani, Dina, and Matt’s work up for far longer than anticipated and will memorialize it with a permanent representation in the form of a standing display.”

Prior to demolition, on July 10th artist Jalani Lion will work with O+ to carefully cover the mural with black paint to help reduce the potential harm to the community, as well as mitigate the visual impact of this portrait being lost while the building still stands in memoriam. 

The word “Dismantle” will be placed on the facade as a call to action and opportunity for community engagement on the site in anticipation of the literal dismantling of the building.

During the week between painting and demolition, Radio Kingston will open the space and host events at the site on Wednesday, July 12th and Friday, July 14th where community members are invited to write on the wall all of the societal constructs that they wish to see dismantled. A permanent installation to commemorate the mural and its message will be placed on the site once work on the green space is completed. 

The hope is that even when the wall is removed, the space will continue to be a positive symbol for our aspirations as a community. 

Timeline and event details

  • July 10th: Mural decommissioned by artist Jalani Lion in collaboration with O+ (rain date July 11th)
  • July 12th, 5-7 pm: Community wheat pasting event with Radio Kingston, The D.R.A.W., and O+
  • July 14th, 1-3 pm: Community wheat pasting event and live broadcast with Radio Kingston and Midtown Arts District
  • July 17-24th: Building demolition begins

Thank you to local artists Jalani Lion, Dina Kravtsov, and Matthew Schulze for this powerful work of public art and its calls for action, justice, and healing. 

“It is my hope that this mural can provoke thought and emotion on this country’s recent events. I hope it can serve as a symbol for positive change in the country, as well as the city of Kingston.” — Jalani Lion

In CO+nversation: Phoenix Roebuck

When Phoenix Roebuck played the 2017 O+ Festival, they weren’t quite sure what to expect. At the time, they were playing upright bass as part of the folk/Americana duo Roebuck with their then-partner Phil and had been introduced to the festival through a friend and longtime Kingston resident Brandy Walters.

“She said, ‘You know, it’s free healthcare,” Phoenix recalls. “And I remember thinking that we could definitely use some free healthcare.”

Back then, Phoenix says they were overdue to have their wisdom teeth removed but had delayed the procedure because they didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford the dental work. During the festival weekend (and the day before Roebuck played their set) Phoenix went to see Dr. Tom Cingle to get those teeth out.

“It was such an amazing and incredible experience,” Phoenix said, adding with a laugh that they insisted on keeping the teeth afterward. “I kept them in a little jar that I wear on a necklace as a token and a reminder of like, ‘This was my payment for a festival I played in New York!’”

Throughout the three-day festival, Phoenix was able to access some other preventive services at the Artists’ Clinic, like a hearing exam and physical, in addition to complementary care like massage and acupuncture, all of which had previously been out of reach for them as a working musician.

“Being an artist of any kind is an incredibly challenging thing in our society here. It’s something that everybody wants to have – they want art, they want music, they want performance – but they don’t want to compensate people for [it], or help take care of them,” they said.

“O+ was one of the first spaces where I felt that it was really possible to have a world, this community of artists and society really co-existing and supporting each other…Everybody that was there to pitch in and help out was so compassionate and kind and thoughtful and helpful. I had so many things done for me while I was there and I just felt like I was home. I didn’t wanna leave. It was such a magical time. O+ is a very magical time and space. I believe every artist deserves that experience.”

After many years of touring and playing shows across the U.S., Phoenix says that one of the things that really stood out about O+ was the community-oriented atmosphere and commitment to health and well-being beyond just the Artists’ Clinic. They noted that while so many music festivals tend to be centered around booze, they were pleasantly surprised to see vendors selling things like kombucha and green tea. “It was refreshing to be somewhere that wasn’t pushing people to get hammered and [instead] actually have healthy substances to put into their body,” they said.

Phoenix shared that they also felt inspired by the diversity of artists and creators at that year’s festival, remembering one particular performance piece that involved the artist hugging a tree for several hours a day. “There’s a lot of imposter syndrome that comes with being an artist, no matter what your artistry is, and when I went to O+ they embraced every and all kinds of artists…And I thought that was so validating, and beautiful and inspiring and it was like, yes, all artistry matters and counts and is valid here.”

These days, their life looks a lot different than it did back in 2017. When the pandemic hit and playing live music was no longer an option, Phoenix had to pivot to other work to make income. That led them back to another passion focusing on wildlife conservation and protection, and they’re currently based in Louisiana working with sea turtle populations. In the meantime, Phoenix also separated from their long-term partner and bandmate and quietly put Roebuck, the duo, on the back burner.

“O+ is a very magical time and space. I believe every artist deserves that experience.”

They’re still making music and even working on a solo album, but it’s been a slow process – emotionally, creatively, and physically.

Like many O+ alumni, Phoenix understands first-hand just how access to healthcare (or lack thereof) can have a life-changing impact on artists and musicians. Last year, an accident at home left them unable to use their right hand – or play upright bass. They were changing a light bulb when it shattered, cutting into their right index finger and damaging the tendon.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh no, what have I done?’” Phoenix says. “I don’t have health insurance. Am I ever going to play again?”

Some friends encouraged them to go to an urgent care center nearby after the finger started swelling and showing signs of infection. Though they were able to get an X-ray and confirm the extent of the injury, Phoenix says the care they received overall wasn’t very helpful. They were bandaged and sent home, told to keep the finger immobilized for a little while but that it should heal up fine on its own.

In reality, the healing process took a lot longer. Phoenix says it was more than a year before they could touch their index finger to their thumb, or put any pressure on the finger without severe pain.

Musician Phoenix Roebuck holds an animal skull

Without the use of that finger, they weren’t able to play their instrument. It felt like a devastating setback after several years of difficult change.

After the pandemic, and the end of touring, and splitting from their bandmate and spouse, Phoenix had focused their energy on music as a way to come to terms with all of these changes. “Music is so cathartic to be able to sit and play. I’ve had so many sessions where I’ve sat with my instruments and just wept playing through them because it’s a different language that your body is speaking when you play an instrument,” Phoenix says.

Without the ability to play, they felt lost.

“It put me into a spiral of depression, I’m not gonna lie,” they say. “This [injury] was such a huge blow because then I felt like all my power and ability to do what I knew how to do musically was just taken away from me because I didn’t have access to healthcare. I couldn’t afford what it was gonna cost to tend to my hand and I just had to hope that it was gonna get better.”

More than just hoping for recovery, Phoenix got to work, determined to get back to making music. They bought finger braces and scoured the Internet for physical therapy tutorials, slowly and painfully practicing finger exercises every day. It took six months of dedicated work just to bend their finger, and several months more before they had full articulation.

“I’m so incredibly grateful that I have the use of my finger back today and that I can play my bass again,” Phoenix says. “Healthcare is so necessary for musicians. It’s that easy for it to be taken away from you. It’s so, so easy.”

Reflecting on the injury and the arduous path to recovery, Phoenix wonders out loud how different their experience would have been if they’d been able to get the care they needed, both for their mental and physical health and well-being.

“The lack of accessibility of healthcare for artists and musicians is absolutely detrimental to our health and wellbeing and our ability to move forward,” they say. “It even takes away our ability to take risks as artists because we’re worried about what could happen…And O+ gives that back to artists, it gives them that peace of mind, that comfort.”

To find a sense of grounding and catharsis during their recovery, Phoenix says they sought out other instruments that didn’t require as much use of their right index finger to try and force some creativity. They learned ukulele and kalimba and dabbled a bit with cello and accordion.

“Anything to get some musical movement in me and through me,” they said. “I think music is such a divine gift to be a part of and participate in and is something I never wanna lose touch with or take for granted. That’s why I insisted on pushing myself to try and play something, anything through this injury because I didn’t want to lose touch with that divinity.”

“To play music is something that I wish for anyone and everyone who wants to do it. Music is life to me.”

Today, Phoenix is still making music and thankfully, still playing their upright bass. They’re working on their first album as a solo artist, and taking their time to develop and create their own sound. There’s still a lot to work through, and Phoenix still has to take breaks from playing – though much improved, they’re still regaining strength in that right hand. But they’re doing it, little by little, day by day.

“When I have my collection of songs ready to perform then I’ll feel like I’ve made it. Like, I’ve made it to the other side of this injury, I made it to the other side of all of this,” they say.

“It’s almost there. I’m almost at the top of the hill.”

In CO+nversation: Roxiny

At O+, we talk about the healing power of art, but singer-songwriter (and 2022 O+ Festival alum) Roxiny is the embodiment of just how impactful that can be. 

Roxiny has been a musician for practically her entire life. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Spain, music has been a constant source of inspiration. “I started making music probably about as soon as I could talk,” she jokes. In high school, she says she started to get more serious about her craft and developed a more defined identity of who she was and who she wanted to be as an artist. 

She went to school to study International Relations – in some ways, she says,  to appease her parents, who weren’t quite comfortable with the idea of their daughter pursuing music full-time – but she kept on making music. While she was still in school, she got a call from Sony asking her to come out to New York City – an offer that would help kick off her career in music. She boarded the flight and never went back. 

The deal with Sony was a major milestone, but she eventually left the label over creative differences. “What they wanted out of me was very much what I’m not…I’ve always had a sense since I was really young that authenticity has really been a big deal to me,” she says. “I just felt like I wasn’t in my skin the whole time.”

Still, she says she learned a lot about the business of music, and that education laid the foundation for her to start her own independent label and build the creative support team she collaborates with today. “I just went for it…and now I’m in a really happy place,” she says. 

While music had always been her preferred conduit for expression, as she matured as a singer/songwriter, Roxiny learned how instrumental it would be to her own personal healing as she began to reckon with the childhood sexual abuse she’d experienced. 

Like many survivors, Roxiny says she spent most of her young adulthood suppressing memories of her abuse, but over time she realized that this wasn’t sustainable. “Music is my lifeblood, but I feel like the big motivator for me, and the things that I had to get through in order to create the kind of music that I felt was authentic to me, required a lot of healing in order to produce.”

Roxiny says the first step was just being able to get honest with herself in terms of confronting not only that the abuse happened, but also recognizing the deep impact it had on her.  “It took a long time to get to a place to feel comfortable speaking about it,” she says.  “Once I was finally able to come to that space, I could finally express what I felt about it.”

When she did get to that place, music was a way for her to unpack that trauma and begin the ongoing process of recovery. At O+, we often talk about the therapeutic effects of art – how sometimes, art and music can be a salve. Roxiny’s experience showcases how integral art is to well-being. 

I feel like music is a tool that empowers many of us when we go through whatever in life, whatever traumas we experience. Music has a real potential to heal.

Roxiny was first introduced to O+ through a friend and collaborator who encouraged her to apply. When she arrived in Kingston for the 2022 festival, she said she was excited to see that there was a space that was shedding light on the fact that artists aren’t able to get the healthcare and the assistance that they need.

“I think it’s such a wonderful assistance for artists because, you know, we go through a lot/ There’s a lot of ups and downs, and there’s not a lot of stability in [this work] in a country that doesn’t provide a lot of support for artists,” she said. “For many of us this is a labor of love and we can’t see any other way of doing it, so we do the best we can, right? To see that there’s this space that supports the basic needs of an artist…I was really excited to see that.”

Like all O+ Festival participants and volunteers, Roxiny was able to access the Artist’s Clinic,  which offers a variety of primary and complementary care services from local and regional providers. Roxiny says she was blown away by the amount of services available and how nurturing the environment felt for her. 

“Overall it was this incredibly healing weekend,” she says, sharing that she was able to receive energy work and see a naturopath who’d helped her deal with some digestive issues that hadn’t been addressed since the pandemic began.

“I came back a new person from the was really like getting taken care of for once,” she says. “So often as artists, we’re giving. We’re giving so much of our energy, so much of our creative expression, and to just sit back and have others take care of you, it was really something for me…It was a kind of magical couple of days.”

A black-and-white portrait of Roxiny wearing a t-shirt that reads "New York City"
Photos courtesy of Roxiny

Sharing the experience with other artists and performers was especially poignant.

“It really felt like I walked into this kind of utopia….I got to see all of these artists on stage, and then see them go through the same process [at the clinic].” She shares an experience of receiving a reiki session while a sound bath was being conducted outside in the graveyard of The Old Dutch Church. “I felt like my body just, like, shot off into another realm,” she laughs. 

As a working musician, this type of care hasn’t always been within reach. Thinking about her own healing journey and coming to terms with her sexual assault, Roxiny reflects on how much more helpful it would have been if she had been able to access mental health services during that time. 

“I would have benefited from seeing a therapist…it probably took me a lot longer to heal than maybe it should have,” she says. “I used to put myself through a lot of terrible shit just because I didn’t know how to deal with what was happening inside me, and maybe I could have skipped a lot of that and began healing in a positive way much sooner.” 

She says she was fortunate that she had a good support network and strong family foundation to lean on when she needed it, but recognizes that this isn’t available to everyone, which only underscores how vital that access to care is. 

When she thinks about those “dark years” (as she calls them) – not to mention the challenges that arise over time as a working artist, a survivor, and a parent – she says that key self-care practices like energy work and meditation help her maintain equilibrium, but it’s her activism and art that connects her to purpose. 

Since coming to terms with her sexual abuse, Roxiny says she was called to help others, especially women and girls, who have gone through similar experiences. She’s partnered with several NYC-based organizations like the Girls Education and Mentoring Service (GEMS) and the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) to offer music and songwriting workshops and other resources to help survivors find a sense of safety and healing. 

“My activism, which stems from my own experiences, impacts everything about me, ” she says. “I felt this need to help other girls and women who have been through similar experiences kind of walk over that bridge,” she says. 

Art can be a conduit and a way to give shape and voice to things and experiences that people don’t have the language to talk about. This is what Roxiny hopes to achieve through her activism and advocacy work.

“It was a really eye-opening, powerful, incredible experience for me…I was able to listen a lot and be in this sisterhood of sorts and at the same time, be there for support and empowerment,” she says of her work with GEMS and VIP. 

“And it wasn’t just me, it was the music. I feel like music is a tool that empowers many of us when we go through whatever in life, whatever traumas we experience. Music has a real potential to heal.”

Roxiny is currently working on her first full-length album, which will be released on October 11, 2023, timed to coincide with International Day of the Girl. Earlier this year she put out her first Spanish-language single, “Ni Santas Ni Putas,” an ode inspired by women in Latin America and around the world who are taking to the streets to protest femicide and violence against women. 

The video for “Ni Santas Ni Putas” drops on May 19th. You can check it out and get more info on Roxiny’s upcoming shows and album at, or on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter

In CO+nversation: Wellness Director Dr. Lizette Edge

Lizette Castillo Edge wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember. Well, almost – there was a period of time when she dreamed of being a marine biologist instead.

“I really wanted to swim with the dolphins!” she jokes (but is maybe only half joking).

Dr. Edge, who goes by Dre (or as some call her, Dr. Dre) is a doctor at Kingston Hospital specializing in family medicine, and she also spends time working abroad to provide care in areas where the need is great. Earlier this year, she joined O+ as Wellness Director and is working with the team to establish a model for year-round care for festival alumni – helping to make a dream that’s almost as old as the festival come true.

Dre was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia before moving to the U.S. One summer when she was about six years old, she was sent to stay with her maternal grandfather, who lived in a rural area south of the city, where he ran a small appliance store. Dre remembers her grandpa as a generous man who was deeply invested in his community, and who often went above and beyond to help his neighbors.

That particular trip ended up being a formative experience for her. Thinking back on that summer, she can remember overhearing a conversation between her grandfather and a couple who’d come into his shop. The couple was older, and from what she could understand, they were struggling with money. The woman was very sick but they couldn’t access healthcare – both because of the expense and also because there weren’t many doctors in poorer, more rural areas.

For Dre, she says it was a lesson that not everyone enjoyed what seemed like the basics in life. Even as a small child, she says she could recognize how unfair that felt.

“It made a really strong impression in my mind…I remember coming home and telling my family that I was going to be a doctor,” she says.

Dre has good memories of her early childhood in Bogotá. She lived with her mom, Alema, and went to a good private school where she was on the swim team. They didn’t go on lavish vacations or have a car, but they had family and community and lived a comfortable life, Dre says. But growing violence and instability in Colombia eventually forced Dre and her mother to leave their home. When the drug wars were at their peak in the late 80s, she says she can remember her mom waking her in the middle of the night to hide under the bed while the sound of gunfire and explosions rang in the distance.

“Even though we weren’t struggling like a lot of other Colombians were…I think the violence just got to a point where my mom couldn’t take it anymore,” Dre says. When one of her classmates was killed by a car bomb, her mother knew it was time to go. Still, leaving wasn’t easy.

“It was a really hard decision for my mom to leave…[she] had been in Colombia her whole life. I think she saw that the future that I wanted wasn’t going to be attainable there.”

An aunt and uncle who were living in Queens, NY invited them to stay with them for a while, so they made the trip. They arrived on a tourist visa and never left. Dre was 9 years old.

“Knowing what it was like to live all of my childhood and most of my early adulthood without insurance – and what the struggles and realities of that are – I think has really shaped how I look at my work.”

They lived in Queens for a while before moving to New Rochelle in Westchester County, where Alema found work as a housekeeper. Thankfully, that job also provided housing for both of them, something that wasn’t particularly common for domestic workers at that time. The move was a big change. They’d left a relatively comfortable life in Bogota – as Dre recalls, “We always had enough food, I went to a good school, and my mom didn’t have to work,” – and the reality of undocumented life in the U.S. was starkly different. They were able to get by, but it was a struggle to access certain basic necessities and resources, including healthcare. Because of the Child Health Plus program in New York State, Dre was able to get some level of care but Alema wasn’t covered.

“I was able to go to the doctor, but most of the time I was going to clinics or free clinics. My mom never went to the doctor, never had preventive care,” she says. Many decades later, after becoming a citizen and getting health insurance, Alema was diagnosed with colon cancer (for which she was successfully treated and is now in remission, thankfully). Thinking back on it, Dre wonders if the cancer could have been caught sooner had her mom had better access to medical care.

Juxtaposing her own experiences trying to navigate the healthcare system as an undocumented person against that of her friends and classmates in affluent Westchester County only solidified Dre’s drive to work in medicine, specifically family practice and outpatient care.

“I had friends growing up who were very wealthy and I remember one friend and her family had seen the same doctor their entire life, and I had never seen the same doctor twice,” Dre says. “Knowing what it was like to live all of my childhood and most of my early adulthood without insurance and what the struggles and realities of that are I think has really shaped how I look at [my work]. In residency, we worked with a lot of uninsured and underinsured people and I think I can relate in a different way.”

Dre stayed in Westchester County all through high school and never lost sight of her goal to become a doctor. When it came time to apply to college, she applied – and got into – CUNY’s Sophie Davis Program, an intense and integrated curriculum that helped students earn their BS and MD within seven years. The program would be like a fast track to becoming a doctor.

“I was super excited because it was a big deal. I remember getting that letter and thinking, this is it!” Dre says.

A few days after her acceptance letter arrived, Dre says they got a call from the admissions asking for her and her mom to come for an in-person meeting. “They basically told us that they had to withdraw my acceptance [to the program] because they’d learned that I was undocumented, and because of that I wouldn’t be able to fully participate in the program,” she says, explaining that while the CUNY system offered education pathways to undocumented students, things would get more complicated or potentially problematic once she started working within the hospital networks during medical school rotations. “I was devastated.”

She says that even though the threat of consequences of being an undocumented person in the States loomed large in her life, this was the first time she felt like she really confronted that reality.

“That experience of being an undocumented immigrant was obviously very present in our lives all the time because of the fear of deportation or the fear of being found out. We were obviously very secretive about the whole thing…I don’t think any of my friends knew, we never talked about it. That was my mom’s and my secret,” she says. “I remember having told my friends that I got in [to the program] and that was the first time I had this realization that, ‘oh, this is real. Way real. I’d had this fear of deportation and the repercussions but I had never faced anything head-on until that meeting.”

Despite that major setback, she pressed on. She enrolled at Hunter College for a year before transferring to SUNY Ulster, and later SUNY New Paltz to complete undergraduate studies.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that CUNY allowed undocumented people, and the fact that my mom valued education and she really believed in my dream that I had, I don’t think I would have gone to college,” Dre says. “We worked hard to be able to pay for the tuition and for me to go. I can see how if I hadn’t had the privilege of such a supportive parent I could have been very easily dissuaded from going to college.”

In school, Dre started a relationship with a classmate. It started as a close friendship and quickly grew. After they had been dating for a while, they decided to get married – because they were young and in love, but also because it could open the door for Dre to become a citizen. “Under other circumstances, I might not have gotten married so young…I was a young feminist and definitely didn’t think marriage should be the highest goal for girls,” she says. At the same time, she says she’s grateful that her relationship gave her the opportunity to gain citizenship.

When she talks about this, she laughs a bit nervously and jokingly wonders out loud if Immigration officials are going to come out of the woodwork to rescind her citizenship, even though they were married for almost two decades before eventually separating. All these years later, that old fear still creeps up on her sometimes.

Around the same time, Alema also found a path to citizenship. She’d stayed in Westchester after Dre left for college and began working for a family with whom she became very close. The couple, who were both lawyers, eventually sponsored Alema’s citizenship and she received her green card in the early 2000s – more than a decade after initially coming to the U.S.

“That family was amazing, they really loved my mom and took her in,” Dre says. It was a pivotal time for both of them.

Dre enrolled in the Medical University of the Americas, where she spent two years studying in Nevis and then two years in clinical rotations back in the U.S., working mostly across Brooklyn and The Bronx.

During her rotations, she says she started to get a glimpse of the challenges within our healthcare system but didn’t feel like she got a full picture of it until she was in residency at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.

“As a medical student, you’re under so much pressure and you’re just trying to keep up. By the time I got to residency, I was a bit more mature and able to analyze things on a deeper level,” she says. “That’s when I started recognizing the bits and pieces of the system and where they seemed broken.”

For her, it was a reality check on her childhood dream that, as a doctor, she wasn’t just going to spend all of her time helping people and fixing problems.

“As naive as that little person was, I reach back for her during the tough times to remember why I’m doing this.”

“I spent a lot of time on the phone with insurance companies fighting to get tests approved for my patients, realizing that people were really underinsured, or hearing from people that weren’t able to afford their bills or their meds,” she says. “Obviously those aren’t the things you think about when you’re a little kid who wants to become a doctor someday.”

Dre says she also started to see the limitations of healthcare alone during both her clinical rotations and her years in residency – and that as a physician, there was only so much within her control.

Dr. Lizette Edge stands in front of a pink and green mural
Dr. Lizette Edge photographed in front of O+ mural “Late Summer Kill Swim” by Samantha French and Aaron Hauck

“I can tell my patients, ‘You should eat more fruits and vegetables’ or ‘You shouldn’t drink,’ but the reality is that sometimes people don’t have access to those things..for example, if they live in a food desert or they can’t afford it, or if they live in a household with other people who are using substances,” she says, reflecting on how frustrated she felt with the lack of integration between medicine and other social programs to help offer more well-rounded, holistic, community care.

After residency, she got a full-time job at Ellis. Even though she’d since moved more than an hour away to Kingston, she stayed on throughout the early part of the covid-19 pandemic, feeling called to serve at the place where she cut her teeth as a doctor.

When asked about her experiences working in the hospital during the pandemic, Dre hesitates a bit.

“It wasn’t something I ever thought I would live through…I don’t think anyone did. It was scary at first when we didn’t know what we were dealing with,” she says. “You sort of had to just buckle down and put in. In the hospital where I was working, we were actually getting a lot of patients from NYC brought up because of overflow…that was intense. But at the same time, I was glad that I was able to be there.”

She talks about learning to adapt to the lack of resources at the beginning of the pandemic when hospitals everywhere were struggling to find enough personal protective equipment for staff. Having to improvise and find creative ways to sterilize and reuse masks, learning more about the virus and how best to treat it in real-time.

Reflecting on that experience, Dre says that the sense of isolation, along with the stress of being on the frontlines of the pandemic, crept up on her.

“I remember feeling a little bit alienated. For anyone working in the healthcare field, everyone kind of shied away from us,” she says. “I was definitely very lonely, and working very hard.”

She’s also seen firsthand just how much the pandemic has impacted healthcare workers. When she thinks about the last three years, she says there’s almost this imaginary line marking the “before” times and what it feels like now.

“Obviously we’re still dealing with Covid, but we have more resources and more knowledge and a better understanding from a medical perspective. I think the changes I see are more around the energy and the morale,” she says. “I think there’s a huge amount of burnout. A lot of people quit medicine – a lot of doctors, a lot of nurses, a lot of people who retired early. Just recently I’ve been seeing that people are seeming to rally more, but the morale has been very down and it’s been hard to recoup from it for sure.”

During the most challenging times, Dre turned to nature – and to music – to cope.

“There were some dark times, but my salvation was being outdoors and being really fortunate to live in this community and be so close to The Catskills…that was probably my saving grace. I felt like at least being outdoors and hiking, I could be kind of around people,” she says, adding, “I also had a lot of single-person dance parties in my living room…I probably put in a lot of hours of just dancing by myself during those two years.”

During the times when she feels especially beaten down by the challenges – a broken healthcare system, the struggle to find resources, the burnout – she calls up that vision of her younger self; the enthusiasm and idealism of that six-year-old girl who knew she would grow up to be a doctor to help people and save the world.

“As naive as that little person was, I reach back for her to remember why I’m doing this.”

She also gets energized by work happening here in Kingston, and people who are dreaming of ways to make things better.

“One of the reasons I moved back to this area was to get back into being more active with a community,” she says, adding that she relocated to Kingston from Berne, NY back in 2018. “I learned about O+ and I think within my first year in Kingston I volunteered with the festival clinic doing primary care work.”

It’s very exciting, imagining and creating [Exchange Wellness]…We’re just in the very beginning, and honestly I feel like with such an amazing team of people and such passion and energy, the sky’s the limit.”

Shortly after her first volunteer experience, she met O+ co-founder Joe Concra at the Surviving the Future conference, where they connected over their shared frustrations and concerns around access to healthcare in the Hudson Valley. Joe later invited Dre to join a panel that O+ was sponsoring called Future of Care, which was trying to reimagine another way of having care within Kingston.

From there, Joe and Dre’s paths continued to cross, and conversations around expanding the O+ Artist’s Clinic to a year-round model happened organically.

“That’s when the seed was really planted,” says Joe, referring to their initial meeting at Surviving The Future. “I’d met someone who was young, who cares about community care, and who understands the limitations of the current healthcare system.”

Dre’s medical expertise and lived experiences navigating the U.S. healthcare system give her a unique vantage point on how to build out more sustainable models of community care. As Wellness Director at O+, she’ll play a crucial role in establishing Exchange Wellness, PLLC, a year-round, exchange-based health center for artists and musicians. The goal is to take the services that are offered during the festival clinic and expand that into a holistic and sustainable model for care that’s available 365 days a year.

Though the foundational work to establish the year-round exchange is just beginning, the idea is as old as the festival itself.

“We were blown away by the need [for accessible healthcare] in the beginning,” Joe says, recalling the first O+ Festival in 2010, recalling that one of the first people to access the Artist’s Clinic at that inaugural festival was having a heart attack and was able to receive life-saving care because of that interaction. He added that while he’d always dreamed of building out year-round services, making it happen in a practical way was a different story – it’s taken a while to get the right people, resources, and funding in place.

“I couldn’t be happier to have Dre on board and get this going,” he says.

Currently, Exchange Wellness, PLLC is in its infancy. “It’s all the foundational stuff right now – paperwork and legal details,” Dre says. The next stage will be to work directly with O+ alumni to assess what that community wants and needs and start to build the framework of the exchange platform. That’s when the fun begins.

“It’s very exciting, imagining and creating this amazing entity, whatever it’s going to shape up to be,” Dre says. “We’re just in the very beginning, and honestly I feel like with such an amazing team of people and such passion and energy, the sky’s the limit.”