Unison has a New Director!

We would like to welcome the new Director of Unison, Alexandra Baer. She is a local New Paltz resident who has been working in the non-profit sector for over 15 years and has dedicated much of that time to working in the arts and related fields. She was recently Director of Outreach Programs at Mill Street Loft in Poughkeepsie and a sculpture teacher in the Art Institute there. Her prior experience was running a commercial sculpture studio and a bronze casting foundry. She lives with her husband and daughter a few minutes from Unison and is looking forward to being part of the new Unison vision! We are very excited about the future programming, events, performances and creative endeavors that she and the new Advisory Board will bring to Unison. Stay tuned for fantastic fall events and please become a new or repeating member to be part of the Unison Family.

Our Current Board Of Advisors:

Matthew Friday, Associate Professor of Critical Studies and Graduate Coordinator at SUNY New Paltz

Michael Asbill, independent curator, arts advocate, director or Chrch Project Space, co-founder of KMOCA (Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art)

Sarah Warren, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Art History, SUNY Purchase

Paul Lichtenberg, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Co-founder of Iris Yoga and Retreat Center

Linda J. Park, Head of Programs & Development at the Richard Hampton Jenrette Foundation

Karali Pitzele, Program Director, New Teacher Center – NYC; founder and former principal, The Green School

Chris Hewitt, Publisher, Country Wisdom News; Director, Hudson Valley Current

Christin Seward, CPA, teach business classes at Culinary Institute, financial therapist

Joanne Leffeld, Moolah Doula – Creating financial well being, President of Band NY, Inc.

Daniel Lipson, Associate Professor of Political Science, SUNY New Paltz

Stuart Bigley & Helene Bigley, Unison’s Founders

Also Supporting the Unison Transformation:

  • Doree Lipson
  • Nancy Plumer
  • Sylvia Diaz
  • Ujjala Schwartz
  • Genie Tartell
  • Bebhinn Dungan
  • Amy Poux

More About Us:

KARALI PITZELE is an educational leader who divides her time between New Paltz and New York City, where she serves as Program Director for the New York office of New Teacher Center, a national non-profit focused on professional development and school improvement.  Prior to her current position, Karali was founder and principal of The Green School, a public high school in Brooklyn focused on sustainability and community-based learning.  Karali grew up in New Paltz, and has a personal connection to Unison because her parents were involved in its inception as a pre-school in the 1970s.  She has stepped up to support Unison in finding new talent for the board and staff, in creating a more broadly impactful mission, and in setting up sustainable organizational structures.

PAUL LICHTENBERG, PhD is a clinical psychologist in private practice, a poet, and co-founder, with his wife, Sibylle of Iris Yoga and Healing Retreat Center, in Accord. Paul attributes his intense interest in holistic community health to his Buddhist philosophical studies and understanding of human functioning as the totality of human experience within the entire community of life. Healing, Paul asserts, is the process of engaging awareness to the parts of human experience that have ruptured, from within the individual, to the community, to the environment. Paul has joined Unison to help bring the awareness and benefits of holistic health to individuals and the community at large, and to encourage conversations between the many diverse facets of culture and community life, but especially the arts, healthcare, environmental studies, education, and social justice.

JOANNE LEFFELD began her career as a Certified Financial Planner working in the New York Metropolitan area.  After several years, she moved to the Hudson Valley, joining her husband in building their lighting design company, Ledspin.  Now that her children are grown, Joanne has created a unique business using a holistic approach to money.  Her primary goal is to educate and empower clients.  She enjoys working one on one with clients endeavoring to remove shame, fear and feelings of ignorance about financial matters. Joanne refers to herself as the “Moolah Doula”, helping people “give birth” to a healthier relationship with money.  Joanne has joined Unison to help create a new vision of what community can be by bringing together people of all ages to participate and celebrate art and culture.

MATTHEW FRIDAY is an artist, educator and community organizer. His research includes the theory and implementation of radical pedagogy, and an interest in regional ecologies and the history and practice of communities of resistance. As a senior partner at SPURSE, a collective of ecosystem artists and designers that work with those who are meeting complex environmental and social challenges, Matthew has designed projects for the Guggenheim Museum, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the MASS MOCA. Working both collectively and individually, Matthew’s projects have taken up issues of organized labor, community farming and fishing initiatives and watershed remediation and management. Prior to joining Unison, Matthew spent twenty years working for a variety of higher education institutions in both instructional and management positions and he currently serves as Associate Professor of Critical Studies and the Graduate Coordinator for the Art Department of State University of New York at New Paltz. Matthew is drawn to Unison because of his interest in working with transformative, mission-based organizations, and he remains committed to issues of social justice and environmental sustainability.

CHRIS HEWITT is the executive director of the Hudson Valley Current, a digital local currency for the mid-Hudson Valley. As a co-founder of the nonprofit project, Hewitt has helped grow the membership in the barter exchange to over 240 members that have exchanged over 200,000 Currents since January 2014. He launched the monthly newspaper Country Wisdom News—age-old and modern thoughts on community, the land and the home—in August 2010, which is now a nonprofit educational component of the Hudson Valley Current. Country Wisdom News, with its new economy insert (Livelihood magazine), reaches over 30,000 readers in Ulster and Dutchess counties each month. Chris Hewitt studied Professional & Technical Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology with a focus on printing, publishing and journalism.

MICHAEL ASBILL is an installation and public artist, independent curator, and arts advocate who lives and works in Accord, New York. Recent projects include “Centreville Formations” at the Galerie Zybaldone and Sporobole (Sherbrooke, QC), “How Much? How Little? The Space to Create” a collaborative effort with Habitat for Artists for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Corcoran Museum (Washington, DC), and “Elevations In Transition” a permanent public artwork for the historic Oregon City Elevator (Portland, Oregon). Michael is the founder and director of CHRCH Project Space, a residency for the development of experimental, community-based, interactive artworks. He is a founding member and resident of Mettacamp, an intentional community dedicated to sustainable living and the arts. Michael is an adjunct professor of Art History at Ulster County Community College.

SARAH WARREN is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Art History program at Purchase College, SUNY. She is the author of the 2013 book, Mikhail Larionov and the Cultural Politics of Late Imperial Russia; the curator of This Leads to Fire: Russian Art Between Nonconformism and Global Capitalism, at the Neuberger Museum of Art in 2014; and she was the James M. Renwick Senior Fellow in American Craft at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2013-14. Her current research is on the relationship between studio craft and counterculture in the Hudson Valley in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.   Sarah has a long standing relationship with Unison, having grown up in the area, and is leveraging her interests in arts and social movements to support the programming committee in Unison’s new focus on community engagement and social practice.

DANIEL LIPSON is an Associate Professor of Political Science at SUNY New Paltz. His research and teaching focus on both civil rights and energy/environmental law and politics. Daniel is co-chair of the Environmental Task Force and serves on the New Paltz Village/Town Bicycle/Pedestrian Committee. He is also an active member of the Kol Hai Jewish Renewal Congregation. Daniel enjoys hiking, running, and cross-country skiing on the ridge as well as playing guitar and banjo.