Donna Quasthoff was born in 1924 in Chicago, one of the most architecturally stimulating cities on Earth. She acquired a first-rate education in art and architecture, first at the Chicago Institute of Art, then with advanced studies in Paris. For a time she taught and practiced her craft in New York. But then, as she likes to say, she had the good sense to move to New Mexico while still young. New Mexico and Santa Fe have benefited from her decision ever since.
A few of Donna's accomplishments after her arrival in 1954 include: the bronze statue of Fray Angélico Chávez outside the state history library that bears his name; the imposing statue of Don Diego de Vargas in Cathedral Park; the 16 bronze plaques that grace the huge front doors of St. Francis Cathedral; the medallions commemorating New Mexico's 50th anniversary of statehood and the 350th anniversary of Santa Fe's founding; the figure of Christ the Good Shepherd at Holy Faith Episcopal Church; the designs for restoring three historically significant structures in Santa Fe--the Oliver P. Hovey House (formerly called the Pinckney R. Tully House) on Grant Avenue, the Donanciano Vigil House on Alto Street, and the Roque Tudesqui House on East DeVargas Street.
For 12 years Donna served on the board of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, and the professional services she donated would have cost at least $80,000, by one estimate. As an Earthwatch volunteer she participated in the research and excavation of the ancient St. Nazaire Cathedral in Autun, France. Her work has been honored by the New Mexico Society of Architects and the state Historic Preservation Division. Her sculpture was given New Mexico's highest honor in recognition of art, the Governor's Award.
“Artists must be extremely vigilant in protecting that which has nurtured and inspired us,” Donna says. And as an illustration that she lives by those words, the executive director of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation recalls recently seeing Donna carefully inspecting the plaster on the restored Hovey House. Donna had specified an extra-thick application of plaster, and when the contractor complained, she had held firm. And she was right--25 years after the work was completed, the plaster still was flawless.