How do you become an atelierista?

The profession of atelierista is relatively recent and (at least in Italy) it is not regulated by any laws or professional association. Thus, potentially anyone can define themselves an atelierista, even with no training or experience. 
Loris Malaguzzi introduced this term in the educational field for the first time, to indicate a person with an artistic background working in the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia: not an outsider expert, but a professional living the daily routine of the school with children and teachers. Another fundamental characteristic is that the atelierista designs and offers rich open ended, non-directive enviroments, to promote meaningful processes and free expression rather than the creation of specific products.
 Then over time, this term has extended far beyond the Reggio approach and the preschool age range.

So who is an atelierista?  

I think we can define them as a mediator or facilitator with both artistic and relational skills, who supports and promotes the creative expression of each person through various materials.

And consequently, how can we define an atelier?

In my view, it is a context intentionally designed to offer materials and experiences within a time-space frame, for letting each person activate a creative process and express their uniqueness.

What skills and qualifications are required for becoming an atelierista?

A double competence is required: a practical, in-depth knowledge of materials and art processes on one hand; and the pedagogical knowledge of children or any other target group on the other, together with empathy and relational skills.
I distrust those who do everything for everyone: you can’t be an expert in childhood, adolescence, old age, family groups, nature, clay, loose parts and so on and so forth.
I think that every atelierista has the responsibility to create her own professionalism by selecting some paths based on their own aptitudes.

Are there any specialized courses?

Not that I know of, or rather: in Italy there are a few ones, but they often propose ready templates and overly structured workshops teaching.
I think that an ideal academy for future atelierista should draw on the “raw, purer sources”, by selecting various experts who excel in their field (artists, artisans, creatives, pedagogista, educators, teachers), with a great amount of time for workshops and an internship in a real working context (a school, a community center, etc.).
My advice is to look for classes held by excellent art and education professionals, and to compose in this way an “ad hoc” path according to your talents, favoring quality over quantity. Then, when you feel ready, offer some workshops for making some experience in the field and learn from it.

An important tip

Getting your hands dirty, immersing yourself in matter, playing, experimenting with materials until they become so familiar that using them will be like speaking another language fluently.

Just a final clarification

This is not about integrating the teaching or educator profession with some artistic skills (which is still useful), but about building a specialized professional. And above all, no two paths are the same: each one is unique, as each person and professional story. 

Would like to go part of the way together?

Here are some good opportunities: