Balancing Her Hats
If Nadja Maril were
to literally wear a hat for every role she played, the stack would
topple quickly. Maril is known by many as president of the Anne
Arundel County Cultural Arts Foundation (CAF). She also writes
columns for a local newspaper and Washington Woman, edits the
lighting section for Victorian Homes magazine and has written
several books. As a wife and mother of three, you can throw in
juggler as another role. And, in her spare time, she appraises
antiques for local nonprofits and volunteers at her daughter's
U.S. Army's old recruiting theme, "We do more by 9 a.m. than most
people do all day," comes to mind. "I try to prioritize," says
Maril, sitting next to her dog Grace in her Murray Hill home,
and "put family first."
She doesn't waste time either. A simple trip to the store or the
library with daughter Alex turns into an opportunity to connect
with the dizzying array of parts that Maril plays. She drops off
a press release at the library, shops for a centerpiece display
for the upcoming Mardi Gras gala hosted by CAF and pens a freelance
article based on her volunteer appraisal for an historic house.
Even the dog is slated to become the subject of a story by her
and her youngest child Alex.
These connections are probably a little distracting for her 9-year-old,
but they let Maril manage the work of 10 and even helped her meet
her husband, Peter Crilly. Assigned to write an article on single
life in Annapolis, Maril interviewed Annapolitans at various social
events. A single person herself, she wound up at a meeting hosted
by the Young Anne Arundel Professionals, a group that Crilly,
an insurance salesman, helped create. Ironically, the article
was never published, but Maril has no regrets.
Maril came back to this area after living in Provincetown, Mass.,
in the early 1980s. Provincetown was the summer vacation site
for the Maril family and the place where Nadja met her first husband
Cyril Patrick. While she liked the small New England town, "I
wanted a more cosmopolitan setting for the kids," she says. Two
of her children are grown---Justin is a law student and Christopher
is a sophomore at the University of Maryland.
and her first husband were both active in the New England community
but, working long hours and traveling around the country for antique
shows, the couple ran out of time. Her husband's death, however,
changed her focus. "The loss of my husband re-emphasized the importance
of family and community service," Maril says. So she took a job
at an antiques shop to stay busy. "For my sanity, I needed to
do something," Maril recalls.
And stay busy she did. Eventually, she became vice president of
CAF and is now president. The job of running CAF is a daunting
one. The group gives grants to more than 30 local non-profit arts
groups, in addition to sponsoring workshops and monthly art exhibits
and administering the annual "Annie" award that honors outstanding
artistic achievements. When County Executive Janet Owens first
tapped her to be president, Maril admits, "I didn't know what
I was getting into."
With only a skeleton staff, it's up to the CAF's board of directors
to make sure the grants are spent well and to monitor how many
people in the community are being reached. Promoting the foundation
is also a major undertaking that Maril cannot delegate to someone
else. Despite the challenges, Maril enjoys the unpaid job and
appreciates the support that CAF gets from the county. "It's nice
to feel positive about your work, especially your volunteer work,"
Maril observes. "If you don't get joy out of it," she adds, "it's
not going to happen."
Maril and Patrick owned a general antiques store that spawned
her fascination with antique lamps and lighting. "I loved antique
jewelry and glass and he loved leaded glass. We liked to hang
old pieces [for display]. We started hanging them on old fixtures.
People liked the old fixtures and it just grew." Fielding a lot
of questions from customers looking to buy quality lamps, Maril
decided to write a book, "The Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide," to
help consumers pick out the real thing among the many pieces of
attic junk sold every year.
The proliferation of the famous painted Tiffany lamp, now part
of the décor in fast food restaurants, "makes it harder to explain
why you should buy an antique," Maril says. The uniqueness and
value of the original have faded as a result. "It's depressing,"
she remarks. She is now a national expert on late 19th and early
20th century lighting and author of "American Lighting 1840-1940."
The energetic writer, appraiser and mom has come up with yet even
more projects, once she has the time. She wants to convert a Jewish
folk tale about a storyteller into a novel and is contemplating
another book on antiques, this one giving an insider's perspective
on the antique dealing business. "Art enriches the quality of
people's lives," she notes. "It's something I feel very passionate
Art clearly is a family trait. The living room walls are covered
with paintings by her late father, Herman Maril, who died in 1986.
His works are included in a permanent collection at the University
of Maryland University College, as well as the Corcoran Gallery
of Art and the Whitney Museum in New York. One of the paintings
depicts a black cat draped over a radiator, the main character
for two children's books that Nadja published with her father.
She remembers "being at loose ends" in Santa Barbara, where she
had gone to school and later found work as a secretary. On a visit
home, the idea for "Me, Molly Midnight, the Artist's Cat" was
launched. Maril loves to write. "It's a real pleasure finding
the right sentence so somebody can understand it."
If the paint-by-numbers set sitting on a desk near the kitchen
is any sign, her passion for the arts will continue to the next
Marie Maloney works in downtown Annapolis. Her passions
include writing, road trips, Cajun food, and the Terps.