Bachelor of Fine Arts - Fine Arts

The Fine Arts programme focuses on contemporary arts practice, current theoretical concerns, and formal visual languages.

Our focus is on encouraging the emergence and development of a meaningful artistic practice through a range of creative media. This is underpinned and supported by teaching the necessary skills, techniques, and methodologies to foster student's creative, practical, and contextual development.

Key dates

Feb 2021 Intake 16 • 02 • 21

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3 years full-time in Auckland


Bachelor's Degree (Level 7) 360 credits


2021 Domestic $9,051 + $300 Student Services Levy
2021 International $27,000 + $300 Student Services Levy
Fees free applies
All 2021 fees are subject to change and regulatory approval

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Bachelor of Fine Arts - Fine Arts Course Outline

The Fine Arts programme focuses on contemporary arts practice, current theoretical concerns, and formal visual languages.

Students are encouraged to engage with the various aspects of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, video, digital media, and spatial activation. We also offer workshops and special topics classes throughout each year, focusing on specialised areas which include moving images and 3D installation.

Students explore traditional and contemporary materials, techniques, and approaches in relation to their creative projects. Learning takes place within an integrated programme of studio-based and contextual courses that prepare students for a range of creative professions.

Whitecliffe gives students individual studio spaces, which can be accessed seven days a week. At the end of each semester, students stage formal assessment exhibitions within their studio spaces. These displays provide opportunities for showcasing work and are essential for resolving existing ideas and considering new directions.

The Whitecliffe Form Gallery provides an excellent site for students, alumni, faculty, and visiting artists to exhibit. These exhibitions expose students to professional contemporary practice and allow them to engage with the wider arts community. Students are also encouraged to explore other exhibition initiatives such as artist-run spaces, commercial galleries, and site-specific public spaces.

Exciting and fulfilling career opportunities await the successful Whitecliffe Fine Arts graduate in all areas of the creative industry.

Why choose Fine Arts at Whitecliffe?

  • As the consistent winner of the Eden Arts Schools Awards since its inception in 2011, Whitecliffe is firmly positioned as the art school leading Fine Arts education in Auckland.
  • The Whitecliffe Fine Arts department delivers a contemporary and internationally-relevant programme that positions Whitecliffe graduates for a life-long contribution to visual arts and the ever-expanding fields within the creative industries.
  • Students and graduates have consistently won awards of note and have the opportunity to engage with the wider arts community while they are studying, building their professional arts practice from the outset.
  • The award-winning faculty and high calibre of visiting artists ensure that Whitecliffe Fine Arts students are informed, connected, and current.
  • The primary focus of the Whitecliffe Fine Arts department is studio-based learning; that's why Whitecliffe provides students with quality studio space and a programme that ensures that they get regular contact with lecturers who are practising artists.
  • The Fine Arts Studios, along with the Form Gallery, is a hub for like-minded artists and an opportunity for students to see and discuss the work of their peers, their lecturers, and visiting artists.
  • Students can access their studio spaces seven days a week and are encouraged to use the studio as a making and thinking space but also as an installation site. In this way, the studios are an opportunity for the presentation of work to be trialled and tested.
  • End-of-semester exhibitions are a time for the formal assessment of work, but also a time to open the studios to the public, reinforcing the cycle of developing, presenting, and reflecting on work essential to contemporary arts practice.
  • Fine Arts students are trained to digitally document their studio projects and these images are combined with written research to form a contextual portfolio that accompanies each student's end-of-year assessment. This highlights the ability each student possesses to discuss all aspects of their work and the way that it might be considered in relation to historical and contemporary modes of art practice.
Rohan Hardy

Bachelor of Fine Arts: Core Courses + Supplementary Electives

The following Core Courses and Supplementary Electives are taught across all four of the Bachelor of Fine Arts pathways, along with specialist courses that are specific to Fine Arts.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Year One

Year One for the Bachelor of Fine Arts students includes a combination of both general arts and design with specialist pathway courses. The programme covers practical and theoretical skills and knowledge where students develop core skills in design, drawing, materials and processes, together with critical and contextual studies.

The study includes supervised studio practice, lectures, tutorials, and self-directed learning. Visual Theory introduces the vocabulary of Art History and Contemporary Theory in support of practical courses and Studio Practice.

The Semester One programme is specifically intended to best prepare students for one of the BFA specialist pathways (Fine Arts, Photo Media, Graphic Design, and Fashion Design). Students are guided through structured projects in the first semester and examine the process of drawing, art-making, and design within the compulsory courses: 5101 Drawing, 5102 Design, and 5103 Materials + Processes, before starting their specialist pathway in the second semester.

Students also participate in three, intensive week-long workshops that enable them to collaborate in teams and/or work independently to produce collective creative outcomes.

Critical and Contextual Studies

A fully integrated programme of Critical and Contextual Studies supports all studio specialisms. 5111a & 5111b Visual Theory Part 1 & Part 2 initiates students into the language of critical discourse and critique. Students learn to analyse, critique, discuss, write, and conduct research related to the practice of art and design. The Visual Theory courses also assist students in positioning their art and design practice within a broader cultural and historical context.

Year One Supplementary Electives

Additional to the specialist courses, students have an opportunity to select from a range of elective courses. Elective courses enable the Year One student to test out other specialist areas, before firming up their decision to specialise in a pathway. Elective courses may include the following:

  • 5202: Community Engagement
  • 5203: Painting
  • 5202: Screen Printing
  • 5402: Graphic Print Processes
  • 5404: Publication Design
  • 5502: Reading the Photographic Image
  • 5503: Video
  • 5504: Digital Imaging

Critical and Contextual Studies in Years Two and Three

The integrated programme of Critical and Contextual Studies continues in Years Two and Three. In Year Two students undertake a one-semester course in Modern and Contemporary Art and Design Survey, that addresses contemporary theory and debates around the subject specialism of their choice. Year Three students extend this learning in the Contemporary Issues in Art and Design course as well as Entrepreneurship II that includes the opportunity for applying knowledge in a work placement. During these internships, students gain valuable insight into working conditions and fostering significant networks for the future.

In addition, students select from a range of theory elective courses offered within a suite of Year Two and Year Three courses. The courses include a variety of topics that strategically deepen students’ contextual, theoretical, and practice-based inquiries. Students select from the following:

  • 6120: Sustainability Now
  • 6121: Contemporary Art: Asia and the Pacific Rim
  • 6122: Socially Engaged Practice
  • 6123: Scripting the Body: Curating Performance
  • 6124: Identity and the Construction of the Postmodern (Self)
  • 6125: Painting and the Expanded Field
  • 6128: Making Art in a Globalised World
  • 6129: Public Project
  • 6130: Revolution and War
  • 6131: Popular Culture: Warhol's Stepchildren
  • 6132: The Object
  • 6133: What is Cinema?
  • 6134: Spectacle and Seduction
  • 6135: Te Ao Māori
Molly Timmins

Fine Arts Year One

Students wishing to specialise in Fine Arts will be required to complete 5200 Studio Practice: Fine Arts in the second semester. This course is considered fundamental to contemporary art practice and will include a balance of contemporary and traditional skills, knowledge, and research practice. For example, the course content may include the following:

  • Principles and practices in the production of art: drawing, painting, video, sculpture, and installation
  • Issues in contemporary art: concepts, contexts, and methodologies
  • Visual research and exploration of materiality
  • The critical evaluation of work within a cultural framework
  • Presentation and installation strategies for public exhibition
Lea Charron

Fine Arts Year Two

Year Two Fine Arts students develop a broad learning base utilising a variety of media. In Terms 1 - 3, students participate in a series of set assignments, special topics, and workshops that assist them to evaluate complex issues and discuss critical frameworks relevant to contemporary art practice. In Term Four, students focus on the transition from working with set assignments to working on a self-directed project that extends studio-based visual and theoretical research. Intensive individual supervision from the faculty supports their creative, practical, and contextual development. At the end of each semester, students stage formal assessment exhibitions within their studio spaces, which provide opportunities for showcasing work, resolving ideas, and considering new directions.

Entrepreneurship I provides an opportunity for Year Two students to apply their creative, practical, and theoretical knowledge with an introduction to small business start-ups, marketing, and public relations, leading to more integrated and substantiated studio research projects and careers beyond completing their degree.

Te Ara Minhinnick

Fine Arts Year Three

By undertaking a negotiated studio research project in Year Three, students will creatively engage in a largely self-directed course of study to produce practical work, which is evaluated within a critical framework. Year Three students accumulate a contextual portfolio, which contains photographic documentation of their studio work as it has developed throughout the year alongside an annotated bibliography of relevant reading material.

By the end of Year Three, students will resolve a professional body of work that represents an original area of inquiry which is then presented together with the rest of their cohort at the Whitecliffe Graduate Exhibition. This exhibition is well-attended by industry professionals and is an important opportunity to showcase student work whilst focusing on the development of a body of work. This allows students to graduate with momentum, to have confidence and to be an effective leader in, and contributor to, their chosen discipline and the wider arts community.

Simon Lundqvist

Life After BFA Fine Arts

Many of our graduates have gone on to become successful exhibiting artists, both in New Zealand and abroad. However, a Fine Arts degree also prepares graduates for a wide range of careers, giving them essential skills for the modern job market: the ability to think creatively and flexibly; to work independently or collaboratively; to respond constructively to criticism, and to participate in intelligent debate. Our emphasis on business skills - such as budgeting, marketing, career management, and public relations - also prepares graduates for self-employment or to engage in a range of creative industries.

Salle Tamatoa

Key Information for Students

NZ Government key information link for students, that provides more information to support your decision making for this programme

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Where could this programme take you?

A BFA in Fine Arts from Whitecliffe is a great step towards a professional career as an artist. Many of our graduates have gone on to achieve exactly that, here and abroad. But a fine arts training also prepares graduates for a wide range of careers, giving them essential skills for a modern jobs market: the abilities to think creatively and flexibly; to work independently or collaboratively; to respond constructively to criticism, and to participate in intelligent debate. Our emphasis on business skills – such as budgeting, marketing, career management, and public relations – also prepares graduates for some of the more pragmatic aspects of life after study. The most important things we do for our students are preparing them for lifelong creative work, and helping them develop the attributes that will make them leaders within their communities. And as the creative industries continue to grow, we find that more and more of our graduates are carving out unique career paths.

Jobs related to this programme

Exhibiting Artist

Gallery Manager

Tertiary Teacher

Art Consultant


Art Magazine Editor

Curatorial Assistant

Secondary School Teacher

Arts Administrator

Set Design and Construction

Art Project Manager

Find out more about career opportunities

Talk to our team

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If you would like to ask us a question or request more information, please detail your enquiry using the form below. If you would like you can contact us directly on 0800 800 300, email us or use the contact us form.

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