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Joseph Anthony “Joe” Gatto: In Memoriam

posted by CAA — Jan 17, 2014

Joseph Anthony “Joe” Gatto, a noted jewelry artist and the founding visual-art dean of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, died on November 13, 2013. He was 78 years old.

Born on December 22, 1934, in Pueblo, Colorado, Gatto was the son of immigrants. His father was a shoveler in the steel industry, and his mother was a garment worker. The family moved west, and Gatto attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, California, where he aspired to attend college. He worked bagging groceries, studied, and lettered in four sports. After military service at Fort Lewis, Washington, he attended California State University, Los Angeles, and Pepperdine University in Malibu, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art and education. Gatto was the first in his family to graduate from college and earn advanced degrees.

An award-winning jewelry artist, painter, photographer, and author of several books on teaching art, Gatto cofounded the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), where he was visual-arts dean from 1985 to 2002. He was a recipient of the California “Bravo” Teacher of the Year Award and was honored at the White House by both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Always active in his church and community, Gatto supported the parish and school at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church and participated in local politics. In 2004 he fulfilled a lifelong dream, serving as delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Joseph A Joe Gatto Nesting Bird 3

Joe Gatto, Nesting Bird 3, gold, coral, pearl, and found objects (artwork © Joe Gatto)

After retiring from LACHSA, Gatto continued to teach figure drawing and art-education courses at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He exhibited and gained national acclaim for his finely crafted art jewelry shown under his brand Wear Art Now. A dedicated father and grandfather, avid gardener, collector, and world traveler, Gatto lived life to its fullest while he nurtured the creative lives of others.

Gatto is survived by brothers Don and Frank, his daughter Nicole and her husband Mark, his son Mike and his wife Danielle, his daughter Mariann and her fiancé Eric, his grandchildren Damian, Elliana, and Evangelina, and his former wife Isolde, plus countless cousins, admiring students, and loving friends.

Memorial services were held on November 22, 2013, in Los Angeles, with hundreds in attendance. The Los Angeles Police Department is continuing its investigation into Gatto’s untimely death. Donations in his memory can be made to one of his favorite charities: (1) Historic Italian Hall Foundation, 125 Paseo De la Plaza, Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90012; (2) Los Angeles Community Garden Council, 4470 West Sunset Boulevard, No. 381, Los Angeles, CA 90027; or (3) Tuition Magician, Joe Gatto Arts Scholarship, 4470 West Sunset Boulevard, PMB 378, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

Filed under: Obituaries