Artists at the Centre is a project that brings artists into early learning and child care centres and family resource centres in Hamilton Ontario
Canada, where the early childhood educators are exploring the Reggio Emilia approach. It was funded
initially by the Hamilton Community Foundation, and subsequently by the Ontario
Trillium Foundation and the Ontario
Ongoing funding has been provided by Ontario
Early Years and Hamilton’s Best Start, with significant support from the
Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts.
For more information on the project funders click here.
The educators in Reggio Emilia invite
us to think with them about the ideas they have formulated and to find ways
to make sense of them in our own culture. This is not a curriculum model or
recipe. It is a worldview. We cannot have it here the way we can have a fast
food franchise virtually anywhere we see fit to hang the shingle. Our culture
is different. Our questions and possibilities are different. What we can do
is to incline toward it – to think about the quality of the aesthetic
experiences we provide for children and the beauty and thoughtfulness in our
preparation of the environment of their
classroom, about how we view children, how we view time, how we value art and
learning and teaching and collaboration.
adults and children involved in the Artists at the Centre project have
had the pleasure of thinking, playing, talking, learning, and inventing
together. During the course of this project, we have come to realize:
The artists have brought their keen sense of colour, line, texture and
aesthetics, and knowledge of art media. A fundamental reason for putting
artists and children together is that when they work together, the children
learn skills and forms of awareness that occur only in the arts. They learn
about the life of the imagination, how to be keen observers and appreciators
of experience. "Young children and artists do share some common ways of
experiencing the world around them. They ask questions, explore materials and
are responsive to the rich visual and sensory world around them. Artists and
young children are serious investigators and players. This comparison is not
to suggest that artists are young children but that there are common
characteristics that can be nurtured in childhood" (Tarr, 1995).
The teachers have added their gifts of insight into children’s interests and
questions. They practice what Carlina Rinaldi
has described as "a pedagogy of listening". The children have
brought their joie de vivre, curiosity, and desire to represent their responses to the world. The documentation of this collaboration is not merely an
archive of what has been done, but rather a means by which conversations and
hypotheses and reactions can be revisited. Documentation
helps us to reconsider, re-examine, re-cognize.
Time is another of the gifts included in this journey. Taking the time to
look closely and draw, paint, mould or construct encourages thoughtfulness.
Revisiting an earlier representation with others allows for reflection.
Listening to and collaborating with others provides the opportunity for richness, complexity, conflict, and resolution.
"Make no mistake, the curriculum we prescribe for schools and the time
we allocate to subjects show children what adults believe is important for
them to learn" (Eisner, 1992). In this project, children’s interests are pursued in
depth. A project could go on for months. The children are encouraged to represent their understandings in many
ways, to spend time looking at others’ work, and to talk about and elaborate
upon and play with their ideas. There is no rush. The gift of
time for educators
means they can pay attention to what
(2001) has described as “ordinary
Eisner, E. (1992). The misunderstood role of the arts in human development. Phi
Delta Kappan, April, (591-595).
G., Hall, E., & Berglund, K. (2001). The power
moments. Child Care Information
Exchange 9/01, 52-54.
P. (1995). Creating connections: Adding "art" to your art program. Interaction,
Rinaldi, C. (2001). The pedagogy of listening : The listening perspective
from Reggio Emilia. Innovations in
Early Education : The International Reggio Exchange 8(4), 1-4