Unlocking a world of opportunity with the power of design

Pitopito Kōrero


August 9, 2023



Roxanne Black

Final-year student of the Bachelor of Design (Stage & Screen)

From an upbringing in Kororareka, Ballet School, to performing and working at festivals across California, Roxanne’s passion for the performing arts guided her towards enrolling in the Bachelor of Design for Stage & Screen at Toi Whakaari. 

As a dancer who also enjoyed making things, combining these two worlds naturally led her towards performance design. “I come from a background as a performer and I have always loved to make things so designing for a world I already knew felt right.” she shares.

Roxanne (right) during the production week of The Birthday Girl by Albert Belz, in the background is her cardboard inspired set design. Photo: Philip Merry.

“I think design as a way of thinking is a really powerful tool in any industry. Learning how to think as a designer can open up a lot of opportunities that you might not expect. I was not sure what direction I wanted to head in so I wanted to do something that would allow me to discover something unknown.”

Since enrolling at Toi Whakaari, she designed the set and costumes for the Toi Whakaari Double Bill production of The Birthday Girl by award-winning playwright Albert Belz, and has already landed work designing wearable puppets for Barbarian Productions.

Roxanne designed not only the set, but also the lighting and costume for the The Birthday Girl. Photo: Philip Merry.

For Roxanne, choosing to make a career pathway in the arts has highlighted the importance of people. “Toi has been a steady stream of amazing opportunities that have opened me up to a community that is excited to know you” she says, “be good to the people you make with, laugh with them, and listen to them. It's a really good time when you prioritise the relationships alongside the work”.

The unique and intimate learning environment at Toi Whakaari promotes collaboration and whanaungatanga inside and out of the classroom, which attracted Roxanne. She shares, “I wanted to be in an institution that is doing a lot of work to not only be exceptional at their craft by having some really incredible facilities, but in the way they prioritised building a community.”

Roxanne (middle) with Toi Whakaari peers practising waiata. Photo: Taylor-Rose Terekia.

In addition to expanding her knowledge of the arts alongside her peers, she has ultimately discovered more about herself as an artist. Describing a key learning from Toi Whakaari, Roxanne shares “know yourself, where you come from, and why you are doing what you are doing.”

“If you know these things you can be resilient. I think choosing a life of being a career artist requires a self-knowing I previously struggled to connect to. Toi has offered me some pretty amazing frameworks to re-establish myself in relation to my craft.”

Interested in the Bachelor of Design (Stage & Screen)? Applications are open to study at Toi Whakaari in 2024. Learn more about the three-year degree program or apply online now.