Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Prof. Todd Christensen, Department Chair

Burris Hall, Room 109 C


FAX: 505.454.3241


Mission of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts

The general mission of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts is to educate students in the technical skills, the theoretical underpinnings, and the sociocultural context for the disciplines represented by the academic programs. The department seeks to inspire students to develop creative and expressive ideas in the foundation of their lives and in their work, which is the essence of the cultivation of the human mind and spirit.

In its collaborative enterprises, the department seeks to provide opportunities for students to work closely with faculty and staff in its academic courses, thus demonstrating that faculty and staff readily interact with students.* Community members join the department for many productions and activities. The department aims to incorporate appropriate elements from Northern New Mexico’s artistic, theatrical, and musical culture in its courses and productions, which relate to the rich heritage of Hispanic and Native American cultures that are distinctive of the state of New Mexico. Ultimately, the department aims to prepare its students for an active professional life in each discipline through the knowledge, creativity, teaching skills, and dedication of its faculty and staff, showing excellence in teaching, discovering, preserving and applying knowledge.


Todd Christensen (Art)

Andre Garcia-Nuthmann (Music)

Edward Harrington (Music)

David Lobdell (Art)

Ester Ofearghail (Art History)

Resources and Facilities

New Mexico Highlands University provides music studios for audio recording, songwriting, group rehearsal, and individual practice, art studios for ceramics, painting, drawing, jewelry and metalsmithing, printmaking, sculpture, and a fully equipped art foundry.

Students in visual and performing arts are joined by other students on campus and by community members in the concert choir, madrigal choir, HU Jazz Singers, wind ensemble, guitar ensemble, jazz ensemble, and mariachi, as well as four main-stage productions. The gallery in the arts building (Burris Hall) serves as the focal point for artistic work produced through various classes and studios. The Art Club and Music Club are an active part of campus life and work to promote their respective programs.

Visual Arts

The fine arts discipline prepares students for a career in visual art and prepares them to advance academically. A focus on critical thinking and commitment in coursework enables students to become visually literate, technically competent, historically informed, and conceptually relevant.

The program aims to support traditional fine art mediums, as well as contemporary art forms that merge multiple disciplines, including digital media. Art history informs students of background and traditional content issues in art. The expectation is that students will assimilate this knowledge through their production practices. The program provides training in electronic media for documentation and publication purposes, which helps the student gain access to exhibition venues and academic program applications.

Highlands’ art discipline reserves the right to retain student images submitted for course credit for the purposes of education, exhibition, and promotion. Lab fees are required for all studio courses. Expenses vary from course to course and some supplies will be provided from student fees.

Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Fine Arts

The fine arts and media arts BFA is designed to address a creative trend in art that combines electronic media with traditional media. This degree applies to those wishing to use multimedia for the sake of expression. The program creates a bridge between traditional and electronic media beyond the need for documentation and exhibition.


The music program at Highlands offers a variety of options to meet the needs of students with pre-professional interests in music. Degree selections include a bachelor of arts in music education (BA); a bachelor of arts in music technology and composition (BA); a bachelor of fine arts in music, with a concentration in vocal performance (BFA); and a bachelor of arts in music (BA), with a musical focus to be chosen by the student and professor. Additionally, a minor in general music and a minor in music technology and composition are offered to students not majoring in music.

A wide range of choral and instrumental ensembles provides students with opportunities to participate in active music making. These include concert choir, madrigal choir (El Coro de la Tierra Alta), jazz choir, HU Singers, music theater, wind ensemble, guitar ensemble, jazz ensemble, and mariachi (Vaqueros de la Sierra). Other choral and instrumental ensembles are offered according to student interests. Scholarship opportunities include activity awards, the Muller Family Scholarship, the Lorraine Schula Scholarship, the Thomas Mishler Scholarship, and the Lorenzo Miguel Gallegos Scholarship.

Students in the music program will become proficient by acquiring a thorough knowledge of the philosophy, aesthetics, literature, and history of Western art music.

Minors in general music and in music technology and composition are offered exclusively to non-music majors. The minor in general music is designed for students who have a passion for music, supplementing their principal studies. The music minor programs provide opportunities for musical training in conjunction with a variety of major programs such as business, media arts, and literature.


Degrees in theatre are not available.  However, several theater courses are offered for the enrichment of students interested in acting, the stage, and theater history.

This department is under the College of Arts and Sciences