Donnette Hatch Atiyah was born in Salt Lake city, Utah. She studied in Great Britain for a year as a Fulbright Scholar before settling in New York City where she commenced painting studies at the Art Students League. After she completed the Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of Utah in 1973, Donnette returned to New York City as a freelance painter-artist and was granted a 1976 MacDowell Fellowship for residence in Peterborough, New Hampshire where she prepared her solo shows for the Boise Art Museum and subsequently, The Kimball Art Center, Park City, Utah
In New York City, Donnette taught studio art and art history for 22 years at Horace Mann Prep School while serving as a docent at the New Museum of Contemporary Art for ten years. A graduate program at City University of New York offered study of African American literature, feminism, and comparative world literature. Noted scholars in these fields inspired her and complimented earlier world-view studies.