Visual & Design Arts

It is impossible to walk through the halls of PDS and not behold vibrant, intriguing and expressive student art on display.

A visit to the studios will reveal students of all ages truly engaged in the creative process, learning to use a variety of media and techniques, inspired by cultural and art historical models and making personal artistic decisions as they explore and refine ideas.

Students in all divisions at PDS learn to embrace creative exploration with sequential instruction in process and technique, a grounding in art history, the influence of accomplished visiting artists, and the inspiration of seeing significant museum exhibitions. They learn about the joys and challenges of creating art through their immersion in drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, video, furniture building, architecture and photography.

The light-filled studio spaces of the school’s arts wing provide work areas that enable and inspire the students' efforts. Perhaps most importantly, our students grow as members of a school community that respects and celebrates their achievements in art and design.

"Traces" by Jerry Hirniak

"Traces"  documents the Upper School student art studio experience at PDS during Jerry Hirniak's 30 years of teaching. Mr. Hirniak, who retired in June 2021, walks through this exceptional farewell exhibit in our 21-minute video. As he explains, and as the video eloquently reveals, "Everything in here leaves a trace of a student, of an activity, of a body inside the studio space." 

2020-2021 Art Exhibitions

2020-2021 Art Exhibitions Thumbnail

Upper School offers a comprehensive program in diverse fields of art practice that provides a solid general understanding of the arts and opportunity to develop portfolios for college.

The visual and design arts program is a studio-based program based on the principle that the development of inquisitive, imaginative, and analytical skills is an essential part of a liberal arts education. The art department believes that the complex set of skills, habits and attitudes learned in the arts not only contribute to greater visual literacy, but also to more flexible, creative and humanistic minds.

Teachers encourage research, critical inquiry, experimentation, technical proficiency, and collaborative process as a means of learning about art, and of exploring personal vision. Students examine art works from different historical periods and from different cultures, learning about both the social and historical context and the methods used in production. Museum visits, gallery talks and visiting artists are integrated with classroom slide presentations and technical demonstrations. The program encourages diversity and creates a forum for the exchange of ideas among students of all levels and all art disciplines.

All Introductory courses, including fine art, media art, ceramics, photography, architecture, and furniture design are taught as foundation courses and will require regular sketchbook work to support the development of habits and skills essential to learning within the arts and design. All introductory courses meet three times per week, are graded A-F, and are prerequisites for the advanced courses. All advanced (major) courses meet four times a week and are graded A-F. Every art student is encouraged to develop an online portfolio.

For specific courses, see the Upper School Curriculum

The sequential visual art curriculum in the Middle School builds on students' prior knowledge from many origins, which facilitates interdisciplinary connections and gives students a variety of stimulating, nurturing and challenging artistic experiences in two and three dimensions. Students learn that their visual responses to artistic assignments are as varied as are the members of their classes. They learn from and about one another, often in ways that words fail to describe. They also learn that the arts transcend language in artistic models from numerous cultures and lands.

The creative atmosphere in the Middle School art studios supports innovative and focused work that is rewarding, often in surprising ways. Working through a difficult issue can often inspire astonishing breakthroughs.

In fifth, sixth and seventh grades, all students have arts classes four times a week for at least six weeks. Each year they rotate through this broad background in classes involving drawing, painting, printmaking, woodworking, ceramic sculpture, computer skills and design engineering, which gives students a basis for choosing electives to pursue in eighth grade and the Upper School.

For specific courses, see the Middle School Curriculum Guide

The core of the Lower School visual arts program at PDS is making art. Through this focus our students learn to think like artists and experience the frustrations, risks, and joys of the creative process.

The curriculum includes two- and three-dimensional and digital art opportunities, collaborative experiences, and exposure to a variety of artistic traditions fundamental to building a broad visual literacy.

Projects encourage growth in self-discipline, perseverance, expansive thinking and the collaborative spirit. Time in the studio offers a balance between solid foundational work and expressive freedom, enabling students to apply good craftsmanship as they explore their own path of self-expression. Creativity and the ability to see new connections and visualize new ideas are essential sets of skills for our children today. The program intentionally nurtures creative-thinking and problem-solving, skills that enhance learning in all subject areas.

Throughout the Lower School at Princeton Day School, art is woven into the curriculum with an interdisciplinary mindset that is often the way in which students communicate their ideas about subjects. In the PreK - 4th grades we strive to educate an artistically competent, adventuresome, and confident student, who is generally comfortable thinking outside the box in all areas of study.