Visual & Performing Arts

Grand View’s Art Department offers a first-class art education in a regionally known, award-winning program.  Choose graphic design, graphic journalism, game design and interactive analytics, photography, or studio arts (drawing and painting).  We also offer a minor in interactive media  and a certificate in art therapy (see Minors and Certificates, below).    

Grand View’s Music Department offers three majors: Music, Music Education, and Church Music.  A music minor is also offered.  We offer opportunities for everyone from beginning to advanced levels of musicianship and from the casual participant to the serious major.  The department also gives music lessons to students at all levels of ability.  Interested students can also participate in the Choir, Grand View Wind Ensemble, Kantorei, Jazz Combo, and Viking Pep Band.

The Theatre Arts program offers both a major and a minor in a dynamic and inclusive setting. The program focuses in creating a collaborative environment where students are given many opportunities to explore their creativity. Students who are not in the Theatre Arts program are welcome and encouraged to work on the four yearly performances. The productions are performed in an intimate and modified thrust theatre that is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art computer equipment, including computer-controlled lighting, digital sound editing, and computer-aided drafting and design.

More Information
Minors and Certificates

Art Therapy Certificate

Grand View is the only university in Iowa with an Art Therapy Certificate Program. The certificate gives students a background for advanced study in psychology and art to become registered licensed art therapists. Students who earn their certificates have advantages when they seek admission to graduate programs. Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses art materials in a therapeutic or treatment setting to promote health and psychological wellness. Course work for an Art Therapy certificate includes Introduction to Art Therapy, Art Therapy Theory and Methods, plus practical experience and study of the creative process. Gainful Employment Disclosure

Interactive Media Minor

In this 18-credit minor, you'll learn to design for the web, with courses in digital imaging, Flash, and various advanced web design techniques and technology. Combine it with a Graphic Design major, and you'll be a formidable competitor in the employment market.

User Experience Design Certificate

User Experience Design is at the confluence of Graphic Design and Interactive Design. It is a way of thinking, feeling, and designing that emphasizes careful study of the end user of a product or service, focusing on methods that incorporate feedback from users throughout the entire process of design through development. These methods (UXD) are typically used to design screen-based user interfaces such as websites, mobile apps, games, ATMs, appliances, touch-screen kiosks, and many other consumer and business products. 

You'll learn to research, plan, write, organize, design, and create dynamic content for interactive media both individually and in collaborative groups. See the course list here. User Experience Designers are actively working at Des Moines-area companies such as John Deere, Applied Art & Technology, Webspec Design, Workiva, General Dynamics and many others. Gainful Employment Disclosure

This certificate is offered online.


Mark Doerffel, assistant professor of music
Originally from the Florida Keys, I am the director of instrumental activities at Grand View. I also teach Applied Brass, Music Theory and direct the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble. Prior to my arrival in Iowa, I was on the faculty at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fla. I also taught in the secondary schools of Florida and North Carolina for 15 years. I am working on my Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Florida, my Master of Music Education from Appalachian State University, and my Bachelor of Music Education from Louisiana State University. I currently live in Ankeny with my wife Amanda, and our two sons, Charlie and Brooks.

Dr. Kathryn Pohlmann Duffy, professor of music, department chair
Welcome to Grand View! I chair our music department, direct the Grand View choir and teach courses in Theory and History of Music, Music Appreciation, and Conducting. I believe in challenging students to explore the richness of music and to claim this richness in their own life – whether as a part of a career in music, an avocation, or just as an informed and interested listener.  To that end, I seek out ways to help students nurture their intellectual curiosity and allow themselves to be fully engaged by their subject matter. Beyond the academic arena, I enjoy a good mystery, traveling, needlework, and spending time with my husband, Steve, and our two sons, Paul and Mark. See you in rehearsal!  Faculty Website

Kristin Larson, professor of speech and theatre, department chair
Hello and welcome to Grand View's Theatre Department!  I'm the chair of the department and I teach classes in the areas of acting and directing, including classes like Acting Styles,  Performer's Voice, Script Analysis and Theatre History and Appreciation. In my courses I consider it my highest goal for students to discover their unique abilities. I enjoy working with the hardworking and dedicated theatre students to develop those abilities in our very active department. I also enjoy welcoming students who may not be theatre majors into the process of playmaking. It's my hope that, regardless of their ultimate career path, all students who become involved in theatre classes or productions find their curiosity awakened and their passion for the art of theatre kindled.  Faculty Website

Rachel Merrill-Schwaller, assistant professor of art & design
My work deals primarily with my internal processing of everyday life, often translating into a physical representation of my emotional state. Ideas are often about (but not limited to) the fake, ridiculous trudge toward the ideal, whether conscious or unconscious. Often this act of seeking manifests itself into a performance within a performance, when one puts on an act that they begin to believe is truth. Each piece is specifically designed for participation with the viewer and questions the ideas of perception.  How perception of oneself alters and changes by those they encounter through manipulation, distortion, and play.

Aaron Powell, instructor of guitar
Hello! I have a Masters of Music Performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (2003) where I studied with Douglas Niedt. I'm also an alumni of Simpson College (1999), graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education. I've been an instructor of guitar at Grand View since the fall of 2005. I have performed as a guitarist with the Des Moines Metro Opera, Des Moines Playhouse and Des Moines Symphony. I appear in recital in various fine arts series and forums throughout the state and in the midwest. I've appeared as a performer in the master classes of notable guitarists such as the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Sergio and Odair Assad, Antigoni Goni and Christopher Parkening.


Aaron Tinder, professor of art & design
I primarily teach in the areas of painting and drawing, as well as art education. I enjoy working alongside students in studio courses, helping them find ways to present ideas in new and challenging ways. My background includes experience teaching art in the public schools, which helps me bring an important perspective to future art educators as well.


Cyndi Wiley, assistant professor of art & design, department chair
I am a citizen designer. I am a feminist. I am human. Although feminism has become the new "F" word in the U.S., it is still relevant and this viewpoint is reflected in my work. As such, I continually question power structures that lead me to design for the betterment of people. This is what is considered a citizen designer. Remembering that I am human is the most important part of my identity. I know my place in the world and I know that a higher power exists. As humans, we crave to be in relationship. For me, this is how I image God; through relationships with others.

Doug Wells, professor of photography
I’m the new addition to the Communication Department, teaching digital photography classes after 28 years as a staff photographer for The Des Moines Register newspaper. It’s been an exciting transition. I love all types of photography, though my professional background is heavily weighted towards the publications aspect of the medium. You will see my photo classes all around campus with our cameras, looking for the perfect shot. Learning is hands-on here. And no one leaves school without taking that staple of the Grand View photo experience, the jump shot. Come see what I mean. Taking photographs makes the world seem somehow more real, more interesting, and more personal. I can’t just watch life flow by; I feel a need to document it in pictures.  Faculty Website

Awards and Accomplishments

Current Students

Mark Doerffel, assistant professor of music and director of instrumental activities, presented a clinic at the Kansas Music Educators Association State In Service Workshop in Wichita. He co-presented the clinic, “De-mystifying the trombone: A guide for non-trombonists,” with Frank Perez from Baker University (Baldwin City, Kan.). This was Doerffel's second year to present clinics at the annual state-wide event. Approximately 5,000 music teachers, students and parents attend each year.

Aaron Tinder had three recent works selected for inclusion in the Quincy Art Center's Biennial Quad-State Exhibit. The piece "Wonderful (And Other Songs)" was awarded Best of Show in the exhibition, which will run through August 4.

Cyndi Wiley has had a paper accepted at IASDR (International Association of Societies of Design Research) to be presented in Tokyo in August. The topic of the paper is an Art &Design app developed by Cyndi and her GV design students. She also presented her pedagogical framework of "Empathy, Connectivity, Authenticity, Trust, and Spirituality," at the national AIGA Design Educator's Conference last October in Minneapolis. 

James Ewald  has had a paper accepted at IASDR (International Association of Societies of Design Research) to be presented in Tokyo in August. The topic is "On Researching Dyslexic Readers Through Graphic Novel Conventions: Pitfalls and Possibilities."

Mary Jones was invited to be an artist in residence at Anchor Graphics, Columbia College, Chicago, for three weeks in June. During the residency she produced a suite of seven intaglio prints titled "Lincoln Avenue: a Deep Ma.p"

Rachel Merrill-Schwaller is researching and creating a project to be entitled "DIY: Spirit Fingers" including both performance based photographs and sculptural installations.  Her research explores the spectacle of mass entertainment in contemporary American society and its connection to role playing performance through examples of pom poms, pageants, and pole dancers.

Heather Haukoos works for Americorps Community Art Collaborative in Baltimore.


The Rasmussen Center for Community Advancement Professions is home to the Art & Design Department. A painting studio, a drawing studio, a special projects room for printmaking and other activities, a digital critique room, and computer labs specifically for graphic design are in store for you! To get a glimpse of this new, state-of-the art, award-winning facility, go to the Virtual Tour.

The music department is housed in the Cowles Center, which was recently renovated for the department, includes separate choir and instrumental ensemble practice spaces, piano studios and additional studio space. The music department also frequently hosts concerts in the Speed Lyceum, located in the Student Center.

The Viking Theatre is located in the Student Center. The thrust stage allows greated connection between the audience and actors.


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