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Well known animator, South Coast educator who died remembered with exhibition featuring her work

CSUCI Art Program Chair Marianne McGrath and Max Hodge, the son of Kathleen Quaife, work on a new exhibition honoring the life and legacy of the well known animator and art teacher.

Kathleen Quiafe helped create animated classics like Hercules, Pocahontas, and FernGully: The Last Rainforest, and taught at Cal State Channel Islands.

She helped create some classic Disney animated movies like “Hercules” and “Pocahontas,” and was known as one of the top visual effects animators in the business. And, the Ventura County woman was a beloved art instructor at Cal State Channel Islands, teaching life drawing in animation.

Kathleen Quaife unexpectedly died from a heart attack in October of 2021.

But her life, and work are being celebrated with a new exhibition opening this week in Camarillo.

"When she started off, everything that is visual effects was done by hand," said Max Hodge, who is one of Quaife’s two sons.

She got into the animation field when women were rare. Hodge helped develop the new exhibition opening this week at Cal State Channel Islands, called Kathleen Quaife: A Portrait of the Artist.

Marianne McGrath is co-curator of the exhibition, and Chair of CSUCI’s Department of Art & Performing Arts. She said it features work from throughout her life, as well as work created by some of her students.

McGrath said the idea was to not only create a tribute to the educator, but a standalone art show which even people who didn’t know her or her work would appreciate.

McGrath and CSUCI Art Professor Luke Matjas co-curated the show, working with Quaife’s son Max.

Hodge said she had an amazing life, basically creating her own path to becoming a giant in the field of animation. His parents moved to California so she could purse the field.

Cal State Channel Islands
Animator, and CSUCI art instructor Kathleen Quaife.

Quaife worked as an animator for four decades, including jobs with Hanna-Barbara, Warner Brothers, and Disney. If you saw water, fire, or smoke in an animated movie, the odds were good she was behind it. When hand drawn animation began to be replaced by computer animation about 20 years, she shifted gears, and started teaching the art form.

The exhibition debuts Thursday night and features some of Quaife’s first works as a child, examples of her animation, some of her landscapes, and even the desk she used to create art.

Kathleen Quaife: A Portrait of the Artist runs from Thursday through the end of 2022 at Cal State Channel Island’s Napa Hall. Admission is free, with the gallery open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.