Artists at the Centre

Jason Avery, Dawn White Beatty, Judi Burgess, Kelly Jonathan, Kathy Cope, and Marla Panko.

Jason Avery
I worked as an acoustic guitarist in the mid to late seventies and played loud electric music until the middle eighties. In spite of this I remain a good listener, a requisite for the Artists at the Centre approach.

I am a self-taught artist and have exhibited locally. I have worked with assemblages of materials, constructions, carving, hand beaten metal, and photography. I am earnest and curious and therefore completely at the mercy of all.

I am learning every day. It has always been so for me. With any luck, it will continue so.

Dawn White Beatty
As a visual artist I explore themes of transformation, memory, history and spirituality in the landscape, aware of the ways in which environment teaches, guides and speaks. I try to hear the messages and use these in my work. I work in mediums of mixed media drawing, sculpture and drawing assemblage, papermaking and book structures, pastel and experimental drawing media. I also write poetry and text fragments that I include in my visual works. I have worked for twenty-five years in the Hamilton arts community as an exhibiting visual artist, writer, arts educator, designer and for the last ten years as a curator of art exhibitions. My exhibitions include 'Intimations', Art Gallery of Hamilton, 'Boreala', McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinburg, and 'there and back again', Soho20 Gallery, New York.

My life as an artist depends on making a vast well of time available for the exploration, the long search and the gathering necessary for artistic growth. The journey and the process are crucial aspects to me, and the final form of the painting or drawing or sculpture represents only a small portion of the total wonder and learning that happens each time I make a piece of art. As a participant in the Artists at the Centre project I have joyously discovered that the journey/process and the gift of time are also important elements of the Reggio Emilia Approach.

When teachers, artists, children and families are all working together to provide an environment of adequate time for discovery and access to the needed research materials, the magic of discovery and learning happens. It is my privilege to be present to enable and encourage this process by introducing materials and techniques that facilitate the exploration and learning. Collectively we strive to recognize and cherish the 'hundred languages' of expression employed by the children.

Watching a drawing take form as the story of it is being told out loud, the drawing and the story spiralling out from the imagination of a child, is a precious gift. Being invited to share a child's world of imagination and wonder, having time to explore the materials and methods of art-making that facilitate the learning, taking time to meander off of the pathway, through the forest, under the sea, up and away into space…wherever the imagination and curiosity of the child leads- all are such valuable moments! Time for fun in the learning and time for serious and respectful consideration of the work of children; this is the magic that happens. Although I am able facilitate it through guidance with art materials, they really direct the entire journey, learning to find their own answers through hands-on exploration. The children are my teachers. They develop creative thinking and fearless exploration techniques as they study the world around them and define their individual places there. They learn to be learners and to be teachers, and to mine deeply the rich veins of knowledge available to them and they know that their discoveries are valued. We are able to come back again and again together, and revisit that moment of learning, to build upon it test it and reinforce it through related incidents and provocations, weaving ever-larger webs of learning. We have time to build trust and friendships and safe spaces for exploring and celebrating the inner worlds that are the places of children and of art.

Judi Burgess

I have been a visual artist for many years (Honours B.A. in Art & Art History, McMaster University) and exhibit my work in solo and group exhibitions in Hamilton and surrounding areas, as well as creating privately-commissioned artworks. I am a both a painter and sculptor. I paint in two-dimensions, and on three-dimensional found objects (eg: furniture, boxes), and more recently I incorporate painting into mixed media sculpture.


In my art practice, I like to capture glimpses of imaginary worlds, taking figurative/objective elements of my mind's eye into a realm of the fantastic. Through the evolving imagery, visual stories unfold that achieve an air of contemplative mysticism.


My past art-related work experience lies in Arts Administration (Carnegie Gallery, Dundas and Hamilton Artists Inc.), then the co-organization of two "Art Clubs" at elementary schools, funded by the Ontario Arts Council (2006-07), Hamilton Community Foundation (2008-2011) and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (2006-2011) and Catholic School Board (2006-07)).


Recently (2014) I was awarded an Artist in Education grant through the Ontario Arts Council, and with additional assistance from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, I am facilitating mixed-media sculpture workshops in several local Elementary Schools.


The experience of working with very young children through "Artists at the Centre” has been an eye-opener for me, using visual languages as a key to the kind of learning that "sticks". The "languages" become a springboard to learning from exploring/nurturing relationships, scientific exploration, encouraging dialogue and communication, to the act of self-expression. To 'share" the process of learning through listening to children, collaboration with teachers and parents, and through documentation provides such a rich backdrop upon which memorable and joyful learning experiences stem. Although I have been participating in this project for 7 years, I am still in awe of the capacity for learning young children possess, their intrinsic intelligence, and I marvel at the day-to-day lovely surprises which this type of co-learning brings.  The philosophy inspired by Reggio Emilia has consequently affected the way I think, live and work.

Kathy Cope


BSc. Hons (Biology)

Graduate of Queen’s University


Lifelong weaver and textile artist


Working with children for over 30 years as an instructor at the Art Gallery of Burlington and the Dundas Valley School of Art.


Most recently as an artist with the Artists at the Centre project.  Having been part of the 2-11 Canadian Study Tour to Reggio Emilia, I was able to see first-hand the innovative and progressive view of working with children and educators, influencing my practice as an instructor and an artist.



marla panko

I have been teaching art to people of all ages for over twenty years. My main desire through teaching has always been to share and encourage the love of art. I have taught experimental classes, theory classes, technique classes, and process classes. Those experiences which have best prepared me for encounters with such young children have been, oddly enough, adult classes promoting the creative spirit and creative play by convincing adults to let go of the rules and engage in risk. Working in this program is extremely rewarding because it provides an opportunity for me to witness the abundance of unrestrained creative energy which children possess so intrinsically. I believe this can make me a better instructor. Through teaching we can continue to learn.

Although I devote a lot of time to teaching, my priority remains the development of my artwork. I continue to paint and exhibit, and consider the boundary between the experiences of creating art and daily living to be very fuzzy. They are inextricably bound together. In my own work, I am guided by the desire to somehow make visual sense of the world around me. I am dealing primarily with finding ways to express the creative endeavour for it is the creative process itself that can act as a metaphor for larger, simpler truths.


funders / sponsors


One community's exploration of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.