Cavanaugh was awarded the prestigious Presidential Scholarship from the David Wolcott Kendall Foundation, a four-year, full-tuition merit scholarship. This allowed her to study painting at Kendall College of Art and Design and in 1994 She was accepted into the New York Studio Residency Program in New York City (through Parsons School of Design). Cavanaugh earned a bfa with an emphasis in painting in 1995. In 1996, she co-founded the New School Academy of Fine Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Through the mid- to late 1990s, Cavanaugh established a vast following of students and collectors and became one of West Michigan’s most sought after private instructors. In 2000, upon relocating to Santa Fe, New Mexico to establish her work in the town’s world-renowned art scene, she also developed her watercolor technique.
Her work has received extensive recognition and is featured in more than 400 private and corporate collections throughout the U.S., Canada, England, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Singapore, and Australia. She now lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and three children.