Contributing Editor, History & The Italian American Experience
Marianna Gatto is the executive director of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, a historian and author, with more than a decade of experience in public history, advocacy, non-profit leadership and education.
In 2008, Gatto spearheaded an advocacy campaign that resulted in an allocation of $500,000 in funding from the City of Los Angeles to repair the Italian Hall, the historic building in which the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) is located, and an additional $800,000 in funding the following year. Gatto became the executive director of the IAMLA in 2010, and since then, she has raised over $1.5 million for the museum project. Gatto authored and co-curated the IAMLA’s permanent exhibition, a seven-part exhibit that examines the history and contributions of Italians and Italian Americans in Southern California over the past 200 years. She has grown the museum’s collection from a modest group of a few hundred items to a rare repository of several thousand photographs, artifacts, oral histories and archival documents.
In 2009, Gatto created what has become the IAMLA’s signature annual event, Taste of Italy. As executive director, Gatto contributes to every aspect of the organization, from marketing and development, programming, education, exhibitions and preservation initiatives.
Gatto is the author of Los Angeles’s Little Italy (Arcadia Press, 2009). She lectures frequently on Italian American history, and has appeared in several documentary films including, most recently, PBS’s four-part series, The Italian Americans; Finding the Mother Lode: Italian Americans in California, and Processions of Faith.
From 2005-2010, Gatto served as a curator of history and education for the City of Los Angeles, where she oversaw matters pertaining to history and preservation, museums, and education. Gatto wrote and curated acclaimed exhibitions including At Work: The Art of California Labor; L.A. 225: Los Angeles Through the Eyes of Artists; and Sacred Memories: Honoring the Dead Across Cultures. Gatto also designed, wrote and curated the landmark exhibition Sunshine and Struggle: The Italian Presence in Los Angeles, 1827-1927, which welcomed more than 60,000 visitors during its tri-city tour. The publication she authored, My City, My History, a California Education Standards based curriculum that examines Los Angeles’ diverse history, is utilized in schools throughout the region.
A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Gatto attended UCLA and CSULA, graduating magna cum laude with degrees in Social Science and History, before pursuing a teaching credential in secondary education and master’s degree in History. She began her career as a high school teacher in one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
Over the past decade, Gatto has served as an advocate and consultant for non-profit organizations and the private sector in fields of policy, planning, and development. She has collaborated on projects such as the historic designation of Tuna Canyon and Italian Heritage Month in the State of California.