The 26th annual holiday art and craft fair produced by Unison Arts Center is getting a new name, a new date and a new location this year. The Unison Art, Craft and Design Fair will be held a little earlier in the season than usual, over Thanksgiving Day weekend: Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The new location is on the SUNY New Paltz campus, inside the glass atrium Student Union Building off Route 32 South at 1 Hawk Drive.
Admission costs $4 for adults and $3 for adult members of Unison. Entrance is free for SUNY students and people under age 13. Ample free parking is available, and with the college closed for the holiday weekend, there won’t be much competition for parking spots.
The annual Unison fair is known by its loyal repeat visitors as an upscale representation of local artisanship and artistry. Fine artists exhibit their photographic, sculptural and painted works alongside artisans who create decorative and functional pieces in ceramics, fiber arts, woodwork — including a guitar maker this year — leather, basketry, fused glass and metals. Jewelers who create one-of-a-kind pieces in silver, cloisonné, mixed metals or unique beads are well-represented, as are craftspeople who offer green products: holiday wreaths, natural soaps and beauty products, hand-spun yarns and heirloom seeds from the newly renamed Hudson Valley Seed Company (formerly the Hudson Valley Seed Library).
The list of nearly 50 participating artists can be found on the event Facebook page. An effort is always made to include both returning favorites and new people in the mix, says Stuart Bigley, founder of Unison. And while the emphasis has always been on the presentation of high-end work, he adds, “We do ask all the vendors to have more affordable work for sale, too, so there is something for pretty much anybody.”
Shifting the event from its former location at New Paltz Middle School came about because of capital project construction in the district. The new set-up in the glass atrium on the college campus will provide almost as much space for vendors, however, according to Bigley. The parking situation should be easier with all of the lots available, and the airy space in the atrium, lit by natural light, will complement the works on view.
Visitors may wish to note there won’t be any pre-made food available, as at past events, because of campus policies regarding food service.
The new date for the event happens to fall on the weekend that includes “Small Business Saturday,” the now-nationwide response to mall shoppers’ Black Friday and online buyers’ Cyber Monday. Shoppers are encouraged to buy local over the Thanksgiving Day weekend and support small businesses in one’s hometown, putting those dollars back to work in the community. All the vendors at the Unison event are local, and each represents a small cottage industry.
The Unison Art, Craft and Design Fair is sponsored by Bailey Ceramic Supply, Rhinebeck Artist Shops, My Market and Looking Good Naturally. Their donations help offset the cost of putting on the event, Bigley says, which serves as a major fundraiser each year for the Unison Arts Center at 68 Mountain Rest Road.
Now in its 40th year, Unison has been in transition for the last few years. The major challenges have been finding a board of trustees available to oversee operations for the nonprofit, and keeping funding coming in so they can continue to offer programs and events. The current board is moving on to other things at the end of this year, so plans to establish a new board with several prospective members is in the works. Stuart and Helene Bigley will join that new board, returning to an active management role at Unison.
One of the possibilities they’re considering for future fundraising is to rent out the facilities for events. “Renting the space is not going to be our primary purpose,” says Stuart, “but it can be a means to an end. It’s not a change in what Unison will be, but it will help keep everything together.” With that in mind, he adds, there will be some sprucing up of the building and property so that when the spring season begins, “it will be a more inviting space for people to come to.”
Other fundraising activities may include additional art and craft fairs throughout the year and perhaps a plein air paint-out or large gallery exhibition. More information is available by visiting Unison Arts Center on Facebook or visit unisonarts.org.