Virtual holiday craft fairs and auctions help keep Mid-Hudson artists afloat

Ceramics by Annie O’Neill.

Have you checked out the cost of renting a drafty garret in the Hudson Valley lately? The vast majority of people who make their living from the arts and the not-for-profit organizations that provide them services have lived close to the edge of destitution for as long as most of us can remember. But Covid-19 has taken that precarious state of existence to a whole new level of dread. 

How does one moonlight as a waiter to support one’s artmaking when restaurants and bars are only serving curbside orders? How does one pass the hat at an online concert?

Necessity being the mother of invention, arts organizations are finding new ways to cope with times that have been tough on everybody, but especially on the arts community. The holiday season has long been a favored time for such entities to boost their bottom lines and promote their constituents’ work via crafts fairs and auctions. 

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This year, with the wise eschewing live gatherings that are almost guaranteed to become next month’s superspreader events, virtual shopping has become the way to go. Cyber Monday has become Cyber Month. And with your artsy neighbors struggling more than most to get by this year, Small Business Saturday shouldn’t end with Thanksgiving weekend, either. “Buy Local” means more than ever for the 2020 holidays. 

Here are a few ways you can concentrate your online gift-shopping in your own community while helping to breathe life into the arts that keep our spirits from sinking during the darkest of times:

A one-hour aromatherapy massage with Joan Aptere is one of the items up for bid during the Rosendale Theatre Annual Auction through Saturday, December 5.

Rosendale Theatre Annual Auction

Through Saturday, December 5, www.32auctions.com/RosendaleTheatre2020

As noted back in October when movie theaters in New York State were reopened at 25 percent capacity, smaller neighborhood cinemas and art houses have generally not been able to take advantage of the phased-in lifting of the ban (https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2020/10/30/covid-regulations-challenge-small-cinemas-as-megaplexes-reopen). The not-for-profit, largely volunteer-run Rosendale Theatre normally relies on its annual gala and silent auction for a life-giving injection of funds toward the end of the year. Obviously, there was no safe way to hold a fancy dinner and dance party this time around. But a silent auction can still happen virtually.

It’s happening right now, in fact; and you still have a chance to get in your bid on nearly 100 cool giftable items. There are plenty of art and craft offerings to choose from, with an emphasis on jewelry, ceramics and photography; but you can also find gift certificates for all sorts of goods and services, from acupuncture to drum lessons to poison ivy eradication.

30th Annual Unison Arts Craft, Art & Design Fair

Deborah Mills Thackrey is a photographic artist who is digitally printing her mostly abstract images on fabric. She is then creating a variety of products including throw pillows, upcycled chairs and other items for interiors and clothing.

December 5-12 www.unisonarts.org/events/craft-fair, www.facebook.com/unisonarts

Longtime Paltzonians will be aware of several facts about Unison Arts, aside from the fact that it’s a priceless community resource offering live concerts, art exhibitions, classes and a magical outdoor sculpture garden. 

One of these is that the crafts fair that it has organized on a weekend in early December every year since practically forever is a fantastic place to buy holiday gifts by local artisans at affordable prices. Another is the fact that Unison always seems to be teetering on the brink of going under, partly due to the fact that it’s located on the western outskirts of town and not walkable for college students. That crafts fair is its fiscal lifeline. A year without it happening is unthinkable – especially a year in which the organization invested in an outdoor stage so that it could go on holding live performances despite the pandemic.

After more than two decades of being hosted at the New Paltz Middle School, the Unison Arts Craft, Art and Design Fair has been in search of a new home for the past few years: held on-site in 2018, at Boces in 2019. So maybe the Internet will do for 2020. 

The action will take place on Unison’s Facebook and Instagram pages, in addition to its website, and subscribers to the organization’s e-mail list will also get special notifications on December 5 and 6 – the same weekend that Unison would normally host vendors for the traditional fair. Spotlights on participating artists such as Harriet Forman Barrett, Helen Hosking, Stacie Flint, Leonie Lacouette and Annie O’Neill have been appearing regularly on the Facebook page, so you can get a sense of whose work you might like to purchase before the links go live this Saturday.

“The future of Unison remains strong because of you, our members and art-lovers,” says executive director Alexandra Baer. “If there was ever a time to commit to supporting the arts, now is it.”

Made in Kingston Makers’ Market 

Jewelry by Helen Hosking.

Ongoing online, https://madeinkingstonny.com

Pop-Ups – December 5 & 19, 10 a.m-2 p.m.

Kingston Farmers’ Market, Ulster County Courthouse

Co-sponsored by the City of Kingston, Kingston Midtown Arts District, Arts Mid-Hudson, the Business Alliance of Kingston and Transart, the project known as Made in Kingston has been a movable feast since its conception eight years ago. It has used its annual holiday Makers’ Market to highlight a different former industrial space under renovation in the Midtown Arts District each year.

For 2020, the celebration of all things handcrafted, fabricated or manufactured in Kingston will be happening primarily in cyberspace. Makers’ product photos and contact info are displayed on the Made in Kingston website. Individual artists and businesses handle sales, shipping and customer service, while Made in Kingston promotes shopping locally to support the creative economy during the holidays and year-round.

For those bold enough to venture out for some masked, socially distanced crafts shopping in the cold, a Made in Kingston Pop-Up Artists’ and Makers’ Market will also be part of the Kingston Farmers’ Market in the Ulster County Courthouse parking lot on two Saturdays, December 5 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.