It was a year of firsts for arts degree programmes offered at Whitireia in 2009, with the first students graduating from the Bachelor of Applied Arts, and the performing arts specialisation moving into Wellington
In what would come to be an ongoing tradition, the year's major graduation was held at the then recently opened Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua. Nearly 300 students graduated, including the first students to complete the three years Bachelor of Applied Arts with specialisations in creative writing, music, performing arts and visual arts and design.
"This graduation really demonstrated the value of celebrating together in our city as a community the individual and collective success of our students," said chief executive Don Campbell.
National list MP Hekia Parata was the speaker for the ceremony and was joined by other guests, including Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban MP, Open Polytechnic chair Douglas Langford, chair of the Education Forum Russell Marshall , Grant Klinkum from the Tertiary Education Commission, the executive director of the Porirua Chamber Simon Calvert, chief executive of Wellington Free Ambulance Alan O’Beirne, Graeme Hansen of the Tawa Community Board, and the deputy principal of Tawa College Geoff O’Halloran.
2009 was also a year that saw a farewell to locations that had served their occupants well as the Whitireia performing arts and stage and screen arts programmes moved from Porirua into the Wellington Performing Arts Centre. Whitireia had bought the Wellington Performing Arts Centre in December of the previous year, acquiring both the building at 36 Vivian Street and the centre's suite of accredited programmes, which were now offered from a new PTE company, Whitireia New Zealand Limited. This allowed Whitireia to broaden its range of performance programmes, adding options in commercial dance and musical theatre. Established in Newtown in 1987 under the leadership of Jenny and Jim Stevenson, the Wellington Performing Arts Centre had grown to become one of the largest providers of community-level performing arts education centres in New Zealand, offering certificate and diploma courses in performing arts, acting, dance and singing.
Although never permanently based at the Porirua campus, both the performing arts and stage and screen arts programmes had, prior to the move, always been located in Porirua. For most of its life, the Whitireia cultural performing arts programme had been run from studio space at Pātaka, and its predecessor Page 90, while the stage and screen arts programmes, operating as the New Zealand College of Performing Arts, had made its home in facilities in the grounds of Keneperu Hospital.
Alan Palmer was appointed to manage the new incarnation of the Performing Arts Centre, as well as the existing Whitireia campus in Cuba Mall. He spoke to the vision for the new performing arts campus, noting that "the resources Whitireia brings to the arts centre is going to add a new dimension. Whitireia benefits by bringing students into the heart of the theatre district, close to city amenities. We can make great use of dedicated studio space and all students in the Wellington Performing Arts Centre will be able to use the Cuba campus resources like computer suites. My aim is to build on the great legacy that Jenny and Jim leave to create the Wellington Performing Arts Centre as a centre of excellence for all Performing Arts in New Zealand."
The renamed Whitireia Performing Arts Centre would be home to Whitireia performance programmes for only two years, and in 2011 they would all relocate almost directly across the road to a new site at 25 Vivian Street, opening on 9 June as the Whitireia Performance Centre. The performance programmes would remain at the Whitireia Performance Centre until 2018 when they relocated once more into the purpose-built environs of Te Kāhui Auaha on the corner of Dixon Street and Cuba Mall.
In March, Prime Minister John Key opened a new Paramedic Learning Centre at the Porirua campus. After offering the Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedic) at Whitireia for five years, the programme had grown considerably in size and the need for a dedicated laboratory and learning space was realised with the new Learning Centre which was developed by refitting existing prefabricated buildings.
"The degree has an excellent reputation," said programme leader Mary Manderson. "The numbers of enrolments grow each year and we have reached the point where we need dedicated facilities."
The Paramedic Learning Centre would be the home for the paramedic programme until the opening of Wikitoria Katene in 2013 when all Whitireia health programmes moved into its state of the art facilities.
On their regular international peregrination, Whitireia Performing Arts went to Spain for 2009, performing at various folk festivals in Segovia, Burgos and in Portugalete in the Basque country. During the trip, the students engaged in a range of different activities, from street parades to workshops and midnight performances.
"We have been doing this trip for fifteen years now," said Tuaine Robati, the Artistic Director for Performing Arts. "It is a great opportunity for all of us. The festivals are all about bringing the ‘world’ to the towns and the students take great pride in representing New Zealand internationally."
"Performing every day, sharing our stories and inspiring people through interaction is one of the best experiences," said second-year Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts) student Evan Fuimaono.
After 18 years of entertaining the Porirua community, Whitireia performing arts students are looking forward to working in a new studio in central Wellington. Bachelor of Applied Arts students and staff are moving to the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, which Whitireia bought last month. Acting programme manager Mary-Rose Royal says that even though the move will increase the school's presence in the city, they hope to retain their links with Porirua.
The Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts) is the only kind of its course and includes the study of Samoan, Cook Islands, Māori and contemporary New Zealand dance.
A new degree for Māori nurses is aimed at boosting a health workforce struggling to provide effective care for some of New Zealand’s sickest people. The three-year programme targets students with Māori ancestry (whakapapa), or some language skills (te reo), and is due to start in July at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua.
Head of Nursing Studies, Dr Margaret Southwick, has family links with Tuvalu. She has run the successful Pacific programme in nursing for the past five years, together with the mainstream nursing degree. She says adding the new degree seeks to tackle a long history of poor statistics for Maori in New Zealand.
“Our current workforce, for a variety of reasons, doesn’t seem to be able to address Maori people’s health needs,” she says. “We believe that developing a nursing workforce that is more closely identified with their own community can perhaps be a contribution to turning some of those health statistics around.”
A major difference of the course will be having a Maori perspective featuring ideas of whanau (family) and wairua (spirituality) as a starting point and then incorporating nursing science and knowledge. Graduates will be registered by the Nursing Council in the same way as other nurses but their journey to that point is different, says Dr Southwick. “The students will still need to meet the requirements of being a registered nurse.”
A world-class performing arts centre in Porirua is 'halfway there' thanks to a $3 million commitment towards its construction from the Whitireia Community Polytechnic Council. The funding matches the amount already committed by Porirua City Council, meaning almost half of the estimated $13.5m cost to build the centre is spoken for. The Whitireia council also matched PCC's allocation of $100,000-a-year towards operating costs for the facility's first five years.
A council-polytech partnership to build a performance centre was first mooted in 2004, when PCC pulled the plug on a $25m sports and arts centre combo due to its impact on rates, and instead progressed the recreation centre redevelopment.
The Trust is comprised of a partnership between PCC, Whitireia, Ngati Toa Rangatira and Porirua Community Arts Council.
The polytechnic will use the centre for its performing arts and music programmes, and graduations, but it is expected to be managed by the Trust as a community resource and used for activities such as amateur theatre and school performances. The complex will be purpose-built to accommodate world-class acts and the design future-proofed for further expansion as needs and funds allow. Though dependent on funding, Ms Dale says "if everything goes wonderfully", the centre could be ready by 2012.
A group of students are hoping to be the next "big thing" on the local art scene. Budding artists will get their time in the limelight at Pataka Museum and Gallery through the Purapura Whetu: Myriad of Stars exhibition. It is a display of Whitireia Community Polytechnic Visual Arts and Design students' final year's work, including printmaking, painting, photography, bone carving and jewellery.
Whitireia programme manager for visual arts, Rudy Whitehead-Lopez says he's excited about the show. "There's some fabulous work on the show. Our jewellery is something that usually shines and this year is no exception. We have more painters than we've seen in previous years and that's something we're trying to build on." He says it is also the first time the exhibition has featured work by digital design students.
Senior student Anna Nelson says Purapura Whetu: Myriad of Stars is a vibrant collection of diverse and dynamic works. "These artworks are the culmination of a year of experimentation and hard work by degree students in their second and third years. It's a good opportunity for anyone interested in art to see what's on offer."
The exhibition runs until January 10 in the Blue Pacific Gallery at Pātaka.