The arts management degree designed for curious and passionate students

Enrolments are now open for WAAPA’s new Bachelor of Arts (Arts and Cultural Management) degree.
A woman with blonde hair and a blue demin jacket gestures towards the stage. Two young women, one blonde, one dark haired, look on.

In 2023, the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts (WAAPA) will welcome the first cohort of its new Bachelor of Arts (Arts and Cultural Management) degree.

WAAPA has offered formal training in arts management since the 1980s, but the changing nature of the industry – and the ever-increasing demand for skilled arts managers both here and overseas – has necessitated the evolution of such training in recent years.

‘What is exciting about the BA (Art and Cultural Management) is that it responds to the changing needs of the industry in terms of working for heritage arts companies like opera, theatre and ballet, but also working for community-focused organisations for example, that might focus on musicals and children’s entertainment, as well as music, fashion, and arts festivals,’ explained Jonathan McIntosh, WAAPA’s Acting Coordinator of Arts and Cultural Management. 

‘It’s a course that can take you in many different directions,’ he added.

Developed in response to a rigorous 2019 review of WAAPA’s previous arts management course, coupled with deep and detailed conversations with industry partners and other stakeholders, McIntosh said the new BA (Art and Cultural Management) is designed to ‘further enhance the employability of our students, which is already very, very high’.

The new degree has been designed in response to international trends, such as changes in technology and the economic development of a large and growing middle class in Asia and Southeast Asia. This in turn is reflected in the need for greater cultural competency among WAAPA graduates, who may well find themselves working outside of Australia in years to come.

‘Our course is linking into these very important global ideas in order to maximise the success of our students,’ said McIntosh, who is also WAAPA’s Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning.

‘Similarly, we undertook a national and international benchmarking process with other institutions and other arts management courses and arts leaders, and they provided us with an international perspective on what you would expect an arts and culture management graduate to look like.

‘What skills would you expect them to have, for example? What types of vocabulary and language do they need to work in say, the dance world as opposed to working in a gallery? And then we set out to embed those things within the course, while also consulting closely with our local industry here,’ he said.

Arts and Cultural Management students will gain practical experience by helping in the production, marketing and promotion of WAAPA events. Photo: Kathy Wheatley.

The three year, full-time degree interrogates all aspects of contemporary arts management, from communications, marketing, finance, project management and production through to arts criticism, cultural policy, leadership, law and entrepreneurship.

‘There’s still a very strong emphasis on arts-specific theoretical content, but that is going to be underpinned by a strong foundation in business knowledge,’ McIntosh explained, adding that WAAPA would be partnering with another branch of Edith Cowan University, the School of Business and Law, to deliver some aspects of the new degree.

‘So the core business content will be delivered by their staff and our students will have the opportunity within those units – with social media, for example – to shape their assessments in relation to arts and cultural management.’

Similarly, WAAPA’s established and specialist performing arts courses will ensure that Arts and Culture Management students have detailed and practical on-the-job training alongside their peers.

‘In the same way as you get a Stage Management student allocated to a particular production, we can then allocate Arts and Cultural Management students to work on WAAPA productions. That way they can gain experience in the marketing department at WAAPA for instance, or assist with the finances and producing of different shows in different ways,’ McIntosh explained.

‘It’s about making sure that in terms of the practical application of the course, Arts and Cultural Management students are engaging with staff and students and other departments as well, so that we are promoting cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to learning.’

As with any course at WAAPA, McIntosh said the ideal student for the new BA (Arts and Culture Management) is someone with ‘a genuine interest in the performing arts – all performing arts.’

He continued: ‘We welcome people with that genuine interest but also with a curiosity to learn about other cultural approaches to the arts. What does art mean? What do the arts mean to people in their everyday lives? Not only here within Australia, but around the world? Someone who’s keen to interrogate those questions is the kind of student WAAPA is looking for.’

Learn more about WAAPA’s new Bachelor of Arts (Arts and Cultural Management). Applications for the 2023 course are now open.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts