Faculty Spotlight: Chris Maher on Creativity During COVID


Since coming to Princeton Day School 11 years ago, Furniture Design teacher Chris Maher has shared with the school community his love for building and creating as both a master teacher and an exhibiting artist. After working as a sculptor and furniture maker in New York for several years, Mr. Maher and his wife, also an artist, moved out of the city as they began to raise their family and each began working in independent schools instructing their respective arts. 

Anyone who has spent time around the design studio at PDS has seen Chris Maher hard at work, either demonstrating techniques to students or building his own pieces. When in the studio, Mr. Maher's creative juices are always flowing. For more than a decade, he was inspired skills development in children from Lower School through his advanced Upper School students in working and designing with wood and other materials.

"PDS Visual Arts has been a great place to work because I'm constantly surrounded by active working artists, such as [US Visual Arts teacher and Artist-in-Residence] Jerry Hirniak; [photography teacher] Thatcher Cook; and [ceramics teacher] Eric Rempe. They're great people to bounce ideas off of and their passion for their respective art helps to spur my passion to create while on campus," Chris shared.

Showcasing Art During COVID-19

Adjusting to the many new health and safety protocols is a challenge that the entire School has dealt with this year, especially the Visual and Performing Arts. Chris Maher has maintained a flexible mindset for his design classes by exploring new ways to enrich studies for both on-campus and remote students and finding alternative ways to present work. For instance, earlier in the year students created and submitted digital designs to the national "Design It Digital 2020" competition. See our previous news article for more on the competition, including work by PDS students Caden Bialow '23 and Nikhil Gandhi '22, who won two out of the top three prizes for the competition.

Mr. Maher has also made some changes when it comes to sharing his personal art outside of the classroom. "Each year in the fall, I return to school with an abundance of creative fuel and I begin building new pieces. Typically, I'd show pieces in a variety of local settings, including the Anne Reid '72 Art Gallery on campus," Mr. Maher said. "This year has been difficult because there aren't many options for anyone to physically present their visual artwork. I've definitely been fortunate to find some venues for my students as well as my own work," he added.

Mr. Maher's work (below) is currently being featured in the 21st anniversary exhibition of "Works in Wood" at the New Hope Arts Center. The exhibition is available both in-person as well as online. The in-person exhibit is open for a limited time (until January 10) with strict health and safety protocols in place, including mask-wearing, social distancing and limited attendance. For more information on the exhibition, including Mr. Maher's work, see the NJ.com article here.

Chris Maher's wood-work featured in an exhibition

Image: Chris Maher's two pieces on display in the Works in Wood exhibit at the New Hope Arts Center

"Working at PDS has been a blessing because it allows me to successfully maintain my teaching practice and my studio practice while also being able to spend quality time with my family," Maher remarked. "PDS is a great creative place to work with so many dynamic minds throughout the School. The passion within the community to innovate often encourages me to keep creating and building, especially during the pandemic," he concluded.

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