Artists at the Centre

The Project

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 Arts Council.

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 Journey
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.

The 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:

that children do, in fact, have many languages that adults can nurture and in the process rediscover some of their own;

that we teach best when we are learning;

that we are on a journey. The documentation shows growth and transformation. We are not "there" – we will always be on our way, revisiting where we’ve been and changing our route and relishing the joy of meandering;

that we benefit from thinking together about how we view children, creativity, and education.

Gifts of the Protagonist
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

George Forman (2001) has described as “ordinary



Eisner, E. (1992). The misunderstood role of the arts in human development. Phi Delta Kappan, April, (591-595).

Forman, G., Hall, E., & Berglund, K. (2001). The power

of ordinary moments. Child Care Information Exchange 9/01, 52-54.


Tarr, P. (1995). Creating connections: Adding "art" to your art program. Interaction, 9, (2).

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

The Fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia Approach

The child as protagonist

The teacher as partner, provocateur, nurturer, and guide

The child as collaborator

The teacher as researcher

The child as communicator

The documentation as communication

The environment as third teacher

The parent as partner

To download a printable version of "The Project" click here: TheProject.pdf

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funders / sponsors


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