Marianna Gatto is the executive director, cofounder, and historian of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA), and has nearly twenty years of experience in public history, advocacy, nonprofit leadership, and education.
In 2008, Gatto spearheaded an advocacy campaign that resulted in the allocation of $500,000 in funding from the City of Los Angeles to renovate the Italian Hall, the historic building in which the 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 has raised over $2.5 million for the museum. 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 also writes and curates the museum’s temporary exhibitions and authors its educational curricula. Gatto 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 to programming, education, exhibitions, and preservation initiatives.
Gatto’s extensive research produced Los Angeles’s Little Italy (Arcadia Press, 2009). Her upcoming book, published by Angel City Press, will be released in 2019. 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. Gatto also contributes to various publications, including the Italian Sons and Daughters of America online journal and Ambassador magazine.
From 2005 to 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’s multilayered 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 a 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 nonprofit organizations and the private sector in the 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.