Academics & the Arts

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, 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).    
 Click the icon to watch a video about our art and design department.

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 Band, Kantorei, Jazz Band, and Pep Band.

Nielsen Concert Series
This three-concert series brings notable performers from around the world to the Grand View campus.  Click HERE for the 2013-14 schedule.

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.

Click here for a clip of theatre students performing for community school children.

Click on the icon to go to the Art and Design website to learn more about our Department of Art and Design.

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.


Mark Doerffel, assistant professor of music





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

James Ewald, assistant professor of art & design
As a designer, I believe attention to concepts should underpin every aspect of design work. I prefer a clean design style - the Swiss style embodies my design preferences. I appreciate how computers as tools can contribute to the design process, and I have made it a point to become conversant with the existing software applications important to the graphic design field. At the same time, I don’t see computer technology as the be-all-end-all of design. I believe in a holistic approach to the design process that involves not only electronic work, but also handcrafted elements such as hand-worked typography and hand-drawn illustration.

Mary Jones, professor of art & design (department chair)
I teach a variety of courses, including Graphic Design, Typography, Printmaking and Bookbinding. My background includes many years of professional experience as a designer and illustrator. Lately, I've enjoyed working on collaborative projects with other printmakers and book artists. I enjoy working with students in both fine art and graphic design, and in helping them make connections between the two areas.

Sean Kearney, professor of speech and theatre
Welcome to Grand View theatre! I teach Intro to Speech, Theatre Stagecraft and Production, and Theatre Arts for Children, among other courses. Teaching should be individualized to allow students to play to their strengths and to their goals. I look forward to helping you reach your theatre goals and will see you soon.


Kristin Larson, professor of speech and theatre
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.

Josh Ryther, professor of art & design
I'm active as a professional artist and designer, and I teach Foundations and Design courses at Grand View. My experience gives me a unique perspective on working as a graphic designer, and on how to use that as a teaching tool. I constantly challenge myself in my own work, and as an educator I try to inspire students to do the same.


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
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.

Awards and Accomplishments

Current Students
The annual Grand View Fine Arts Competition winners are being shown in the gallery in Rasmussen Center through the end of the semester. The juror's were local Des Moines artists Jonathan Pearson, Caye Dreiss, and Larassa Kabel. The judging took place on April 4, 2013, in Rasmussen. 

The following awards were given:

Best of Show: Derek Barnett
Juror's Awards: Andy Peek and Kaitlyn Witzel, Jose M. and Sarah Sparling, Paige Kleckner and Matt Webb

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.

Grand Rapids based marketing firm Deksia, for whom Josh Ryther is the Creative Director, opened a second office in Des Moines in June. Deksia is now a part of the East Village.

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.

Frank Hansen had a solo exhibition, "Working Class Poser," at Moberg Gallery, Des Moines, October 2010.

Heather Haukoos works for Americorps Community Art Collaborative in Baltimore.

Benton Schoenrock was awarded a Grinnell Artist Residency in 2010 award, one of five students selected statewide.


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. (Link not mobile friendly.)

The Music and Theatre Departments are located in the Student Center, in the heart of campus. To see more, go to the Virtual Tour. (Link not mobile friendly.)