New Paltz Middle School hosts Unison’s 25th annual Arts and Crafts Fair

Kaete Brittin Shaw’s cast porcelain Stacking Bowls

Where can you find unique handcrafted holiday gifts for your nearest and dearest while investing your shopping dollars back into the local economy and helping a treasured not-for-profit cultural institution make a fiscal comeback at the same time? That’s easy: the Unison Arts & Learning Center’s 25th annual Arts and Crafts Fair, coming up this weekend at the New Paltz Middle School.

Unison has had a very bumpy last couple of years. In fact, one year ago at this time, the venerable performing arts venue, art gallery, sculpture garden and community gathering place for all sorts of classes and workshops came within a hairsbreadth of giving up its longtime headquarters west of the Wallkill at 68 Mountain Rest Road. The organization was in debt, and serious renovations were needed to rectify health code issues and bring back reliable income streams like the Wayfinder Experience’s summer day camps.

But just as the exhausted old guard was ready to give up and move on to rented stages and a tiny downtown office, a fresh Board of Directors was elected, committed to raising funds, fixing what was broken, building new audiences and staying rooted in Unison’s beloved original space. Heather Ohlson was hired as the new executive director; programming was expanded and diversified; repairs were made and alternative sources found to provide clean water and sanitary facilities for the Wayfinder kids, who came back this past summer.

Things may be looking up for Unison, but the success of the Holiday Craft Fair – one of the organization’s biggest annual fundraising events – remains crucial to its future viability. It only costs $3 to get in, which includes a raffle ticket. The fair will feature 50 local artisans exhibiting a wide-ranging variety of affordable handmade work in diverse materials, from ceramics and glass to fiber art and leatherwork, furniture and clocks, basketry and jewelry, holiday ornaments, paintings and photographs, heirloom seeds and natural body products. Snacks including organic baked goods, coffee, teas and Japanese food will also be available for purchase.

Unison’s 25th annual Arts and Crafts Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6 at the New Paltz Middle School, located at the corner of Main Street (Route 299) and South Manheim Boulevard (Route 32 South) in New Paltz. For more info, call (845) 255-1559 or visit



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