Marianna Gatto is the executive director and cofounder of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA), a historian and author with two decades of experience in public history, non-profit leadership, museums, and education.
Gatto has served as the museum’s director since 2010, and oversees matters ranging from development and exhibitions, to education, programming, and fundraising.
She authored and curated the museum’s award winning permanent exhibition.
Gatto’s involvement in the museum project began in 2005, and she later spearheaded a campaign that secured public funds to renovate the Italian Hall, the historic building in which the IAMLA is located.
As a historian, Gatto’s research focuses on Italian Americans in Los Angeles and the West. She is a frequent guest speaker at universities and events. Her book, Los Angeles’s Little Italy, was released in 2009; her second publication, The Italian Americans of Los Angeles: A History, will be released in 2024. Gatto’s writings have been featured in several publications and she has appeared in productions including the PBS series The Italian Americans, Finding the Mother Lode: Italian Americans in California, A Little Fellow, and La Cucina Italiana. She has also consulted for the Discovery Channel, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, National Geographic, and Netflix.
Among the temporary exhibitions she created for IAMLA are A Real Boy: The Many Lives of Pinocchio; Woven Lives: Exploring Women’s Needlework from the Italian Diaspora; 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.
Gatto has also collaborated on initiatives such as the historic designation of Tuna Canyon, a WWII-era detention center for Japanese Americans and Italian Americans.
In 2008, Gatto created the museum’s signature event, Taste of Italy, an upscale food and wine tasting.
Gatto began her career in public education and later became a museum administrator for the City of Los Angeles. A Los Angeles native, Gatto attended the University of California Los Angeles, and California State University Los Angeles, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in social science before beginning her graduate study in history and earning a teaching credential in secondary education. Gatto also has a master’s in education.
Gatto’s work has been recognized by the State of California, and in 2021 the Italian republic awarded her the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy). She is a dame in the Constantinian Order and a dual citizen of the United States and Italy. She resides in Los Angeles and has an adult son.