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December 2020 - Jennifer Lynn (Gannutz) Anderson

December 18, 2020
By Jennifer Lynn (Gannutz) Anderson

Full Name: Jennifer Lynn (Gannutz) Anderson

Former High School: Holy Name Central Catholic High School

Graduation Year: 1985

Briefly describe what you do for work:
I am a full-time, professional fine artist

Who influenced you the most during your time at Holy Name? Why?
Mary Riordan was like a parent to me. I had her for Freshman Year Biology — she had a way of connecting to students that made us feel safe and loved. I often tell people that Holy Name saved me ‘from my teenage years’, and that Mary Riordan was probably the biggest reason I emerged from the teenage world relatively unscathed. She was a constant mentor throughout high school and became a lifelong friend after graduation.

Favorite memory?
Too many to name — but the musicals were probably where I found the most community and like-minded souls. I was a key player in creating and painting the sets/scenery for Carousel and Guys and Dolls. The friendships and camaraderie with my fellow artists (Joanne O’Brien, Nicki Boulanger, Lynne Sweet, Mike Hayes among many others) was rich!

What do you value most from your time at Holy Name?
Holy Name cultivated a sense of community — and the Class of 1985 was very close-knit and familial. Yes, there were expected cliques, but we also bridged our differences in many ways — through sports, musicals, retreats (all the good stuff).

Most important thing you learned at Holy Name?
I went to Holy Name with very little experience with the church and religion. The religious component at HN opened my eyes and heart to what it meant to have faith. As an adult, I reflect back on this frequently and am thankful. I’m not sure I actually fully understood Mass at the time, but in reflection, I remember most the sense of peace I felt.

Describe Holy Name in three words?
Community, Family, Faith

What advice would you give current high school students either pursuing a similar career path to your own?
Don’t stop creating and pushing yourself to do better! Draw as much as you can, draw from life, make it a practice. You’ll be amazed how quickly you improve. Don’t let the critiques get you down, you can always walk away with some snippet of advice that you can apply to the next painting or drawing.

How did your education at Holy Name prepare you for what you did in college and are doing today?
A few standout memories/reflections: My art teacher at Holy Name, Mr. Shilale, emphasized a lot of focus on drawing and developing a portfolio. I studied art in college, so I felt prepared and excited for my freshman year courses. I was committed to becoming an artist in high school and that commitment is still a part of me today.  Sister Ellen Christine was my freshman year lit teacher — and her outlining assignments were onerous beyond words. But I learned how to be a very organized student. And Mr. Olson was my freshman year Algebra teacher. Upon entering Holy Name, academics came very easily to me. But my first test in Algebra proved that I actually needed to study and prepare. I remember Mr. Olson handing me my (poorly) graded test and quietly saying “I know you can do better”. It may sound odd, but those words have stuck with me throughout my life… and have inspired me to always try harder, I ‘can do better’. This helps me push myself with my artwork — keep at it, out the effort in.

What activities or sports were you involved in at Holy Name?
Well, not sure I want this publicized, but freshman year I was a cheerleader for the Freshmen football team. And then sophomore year I attempted Field Hockey, but was pretty much laughed off the JV team. And, so I found my best place was in the arts (which I had been heavily involved in since Freshman year) — but from mid-sophomore year to graduation, that is where I put all my energy. Musicals, set design, posters — anything that required art, I was there.

What advice do you have for current Saint Paul students to make the most of their experience at Saint Paul?
Get involved! Don’t hesitate to try a lot of different activities — you will find friends in unexpected places and mentors ready to help you when you need it most.

What is something people may not know about you?
I was in a New York Times article about home-brewing beer (back in 1990!) LOL. Yep — my husband and I made home-brew back in the day and even made kegs for our wedding and Meade for the champagne toast.

Have you stayed connected with your former high school?
Social media has made it easy to be in touch with former Napoleons.