Andy Ness '97

Andy Ness '97
Sara Jacobson

You may have heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At Minnehaha Academy, it takes a village of teachers to raise a child.

In the eighth grade, Andy Ness knew he was going to be an artist when he grew up but he had a hard time ‘seeing’ how that was possible. That year, Carrie Johnson (his 5th grade teacher) scheduled a day where he got to “skip” school and spend the day with her father, an actor at the Children’s Theatre. Andy shadowed him for the day, meeting actors, set and costume designers, and others who worked in the arts. “This was a pivotal experience for me. Mrs. Johnson saw potential in me, and showed me that there are jobs in the arts and a place for me out in the world.”

Cultivating Potential

Another teacher who opened his eyes to a different form of art was Jan Johnson, his freshman English and honors English teacher. “She was so incredibly smart and open minded. She instilled in her students this need for generosity and how it begets more generosity and how it’s a boomerang–the more you give, the more you get.” Andy read fantastic books in her class ”that I still think about,” and “I still contact her to this day to ask for book recommendations.”

Becky Anderson, his art teacher at the Upper School, helped him apply to art schools, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Rhode Island School of Design, Pratt Institute, and Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. In those days, you had to apply to art school with slides. Becky took all of his artwork onto the front lawn at Minnehaha and they posted it onto pieces of cardboard with black fabric. She took pictures of his work with her own camera, made slides, and he used those slides to apply for art school.  

His Upper School years were extremely important in his development, with an encouraging, supportive environment.  “I had amazing teachers,” he says. Later, when he started teaching art in the New York City public schools and Rhode Island School of Design, he used his MA teachers as role models and examples of the kind of teacher he wanted to be.

The Artist's Life 

Today, Andy is a full-time artist.  His work is represented by a gallery in Trento, Italy called Studio d’ Art Raffaelli and was recently included in an art fair in Bologna. He and his partner just opened a store in South Minneapolis called Show & Tell Mpls which sells many local artist’s home goods, jewelry, and art.  They also have a store in Grand Marais called 'Upstate MN' with artist-made goods.  

Andy has an upcoming show, showing paintings and drawings on canvas.  It opens Friday, April 5th and runs for a month at the Solo Art Gallery in the California building in North-East Minneapolis (  The show is open to art enthusiasts and the curious alike!

When I asked Andy what advice he would share with current students, his answer was simple, “Don’t be afraid to be who you are.”

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