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Alumni Spotlight: In Pursuit of Art
Kirsten Yamaguchi '99

Kirsten’s love of art-making began when she was a youth in Los Angeles. She was born into a family that prized education, and that reverence for education brought her to Brentwood School. At Brentwood, Michael Knight challenged and encouraged her love of art-making as both a teacher and an academic advisor. While at Brentwood, Kirsten designed theater programs for both Brentwood School and The Culver City Civic Light Opera (now defunct), where she also performed in many musicals.

After graduating from Brentwood, Kirsten went on to study Studio Art and Film Studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. While pursuing her BA, Kirsten worked as an usher at a concert hall and as a graphic designer and illustrator at a local theater.

After graduating from Wesleyan, she returned to Los Angeles where she did some work in the art department of commercials, interned at a VFX studio, and drew storyboards. Her work wasn’t up to a level to get enough work to support herself, so she also became a dental assistant, took lots of x-rays, and continued her study of art and animation part-time at Santa Monica College’s Academy of Entertainment Technology. Eventually, her portfolio from SMC gained her acceptance to a number of graduate animation programs, including Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). SCAD offered her a Combined Academic & Artistic Fellowship to attend and had a strong program, so she chose to continue her studies there. She augmented her studies with online classes at Animation Mentor (Emeryville, CA).

Near the end of her time at SCAD, she met with their career counselor and asked for help getting interviews for jobs in animation. Her animation reel, particularly a 7-second acting shot, gained the attention of Rhythm & Hues Studios, and she was hired as an animator for Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. She has worked as a professional animator ever since. Two career highlights have been the opportunities to work on Life of Pi and Disney and Pixar’s Soul.

If she could give advice to her younger self, she would say,

Be brave, ask questions, do what brings you joy, and live in the moment.

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