Contributing Editor, History & The Italian American Experience
Marianna Gatto is the executive director and cofounder of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA), a historian and author with more than a decade of experience in public history, non-profit leadership, museums, and education.
In 2008 and 2009, Gatto spearheaded an advocacy campaign that resulted in an allocation of substantial public funds from the City of Los Angeles to renovate the Italian Hall, the historic building in which the IAMLA is located. Gatto became the executive director of the IAMLA in 2010 and has raised most of the museum’s major gifts. She also oversees exhibitions, programming, education, grants, and preservation initiatives, as well as advocacy and development.
Gatto’s work has raised awareness about the history of Italian Americans of Southern California. She is a frequent guest speaker and facilitator of diversity and inclusion training for corporations and government entities, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Gatto’s publications include Los Angeles’s Little Italy (2009) and Beyond Little Italy: Italian Americans in the City of Angels, which will be released in 2020. She is also a contributor to the Italian Sons and Daughters of America’s online journal. Gatto has appeared in several documentary films including the PBS series The Italian Americans, and Finding the Mother Lode: Italian Americans in California.
Gatto authored and co-curated the IAMLA’s permanent exhibition, an award-winning exhibit that examines the 200-year history of Italian Americans in Southern California and the nation. Among the temporary exhibitions she conceived for the IAMLA are The Sicilian Cart: History in Movement, Italianità: Artists of the Italian Diaspora Explore Identity, Leo Politi’s Los Angeles-Works of Love and Protest, and Fantasy World: Italian Americans in Animation.
She also conducts genealogical research and writes family histories. Gatto has grown the IAMLA’s collection to a rare repository of several thousand photographs, artifacts, oral histories and archival documents. In 2008, she created what has become the museum’s signature event, Taste of Italy.
Gatto began her career as an educator in the city’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. She then worked for the City of Los Angeles overseeing matters pertaining to history and preservation, museums, and education. Her years with the City of Los Angeles produced acclaimed exhibitions including L.A. 225: Los Angeles Through the Eyes of Artists, Sacred Memories: Honoring the Dead Across Cultures, and Sunshine and Struggle: The Italian Presence in Los Angeles, 1827-1927. The California Education Standards-based curriculum guide she authored, My City, My History, was used in the region’s schools.
Gatto has worked as a consultant in the fields of museum development, planning, and advocacy. She hascollaborated on local and national initiatives, including California State Assembly Concurrent Resolution 68, and the historic designation of Tuna Canyon, a WWII-era detention center for Japanese and Italian Americans. Gatto has been honored by the City of Los Angeles and the State of California.
Gatto is a dual citizen of the United States and Italy. Her family hails from the mountainous villages of Lucca Sicula, Sicily, and Lago, Calabria. A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Gatto attended the University of California Los Angeles, and California State University Los Angeles, graduating magna cum laude with degrees in social science and history, before pursuing a teaching credential and a master’s degree in history. Gatto resides in Los Angeles; she is married and has adult sons.Back to Staff