Make your mark on the sector informed by practice-as-research

WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours) encourages curiosity and a more considered approach to being an arts practitioner.
WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours). Two young woman are on stage performing and wearing sleeveless black tops. A third figure is in the background.

For many in the arts industry, 2023 has been running at full speed with jam-packed performance line-ups, festivals and touring events. Underlying concerns across the sector around funding and burnout persist, however, often requiring creative practitioners to consider new models and approaches.

It is in light of these considerations that Dr Renée Newman, WAAPA Associate Dean, Research, says those wanting to work in the sector could bolster their practice with the research-based Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours). ‘Instead of cutting across multiple projects, actually focusing on something for a period of time, deeply, intently and intensively, allows us to get to know who we are and what we need to make in a richer way,’ she tells ArtsHub.

Newman continues: ‘The research methodologies and the research question – even just that, the questioning – can transfer into careers and is a strong skill. It means the grant applications are going to have more nuance, or the competitive process of programming will be more informed and come from a place of honest enquiry.

‘We live in a really complex world that is seemingly filled with myriad crises and there has never been a better time for us to ask probing questions, especially about how the arts can engage with some of these issues.’

Borrowing the quote ‘Research is formalised curiosity’ from US writer Zora Neale Hurston, Newman says research is more than drawing on existing text and knowledge. ‘With practice-as-research, it is very much centred on the subjective experience of the practitioner. The idea of “formalised curiosity” is just putting structures around our imagination and our passion,’ she adds.

What WAAPA’s Honours program looks like

The Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours) allows students to focus on Dance or Performance Making, which not only encompasses performers and theatremakers, but also set designers, stage managers, sound technicians and more. There is the potential for the Honours year to incorporate an international study tour or industry placements, drawing on the vast sector network WAAPA has across the state, nationally and internationally. Students are encouraged to work together across the streams and cohort, to make connections, find their peers and share ambitions on the future of the sector.

The Honours topic doesn’t need to be groundbreaking, but can be ‘new and original to you, an extension of an idea, or a way to challenge and provoke established convention,’ advises Newman. It’s a place that provides students with the tools and methodology to experiment, try things out and engage with the sector, whether that be through interviews, performances or placements.

Read: How to become one of the people who make the arts industry tick

While applicants would benefit from an undergraduate degree in the performing arts to pursue the Honours program, it is not a prerequisite and those with a different undergraduate degree are encouraged to apply. However, if the applicant doesn’t have a Bachelor degree specifically in the performing arts, they will need to evidence experience in the performing arts through a portfolio.

Newman adds those interested in enrolling should pay attention to the research statement when applying. ‘It’s about being excited and curious about a concept and particular idea of what you might undertake,’ says Newman. ‘That’s where we really get a sense of who that person is, and it’s an opportunity for the applicant to show us “This is who I am and this is what I want to say”.’

Applications are now open for WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours) and close 27 November 2023 for the 2024 intake. Find out more.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_