The recent dedication of the renovated Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles included the public debut of new murals painted by Kent Twitchell. One of the murals, “Free Assembly,” includes the image of former school teacher and long-time friend Joseph Gatto, who is depicted wearing a black jacket as he sits among a group of fellow veterans. Today, less than a week after the dedication ceremonies, Twitchell was one of many people who were mourning the death 78-year-old Gatto, son of State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, after the elder Gatto was found dead in his Silver Lake home, the victim of what police believe may have been a home-invasion robbery. Twitchell, in an interview with KPCC, said he had known Gatto for more than twenty years after they met when Gatto worked at the L.A. County High School for the Arts.
While Gatto was an acclaimed teacher, he was also a talented artist and craftsman working with jewelry. In an article in Modern Silver, Gatto talked why he decided to become a teacher instead of a full-time artist:
After junior college and during my second year at CSULA (California State University, Los Angeles), I saw that many of my friends were trying to make it as artists and designers. I read someplace that only two percent of the population of artists make a living selling their art. I did not think I could pay my way through college or later earning a living as an artist, so I would have to make a choice. I made a decision, then and there, that I would be the best teacher that I could possibly be.
Twitchell, who mentioned the story in a Facebook post, described Gatto as “a dear friend … artist, author and American Teacher of the Year.”