Joyce Mariani inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame

May 21, 2023 1649

BY: Beatrice Colagè-Zukowski

Joyce Mariani, Executive Director of the Italian Cultural Garden Foundation and founder of the Cleveland Italian Film Festival, was inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame on April 18, 2023.  Basil M. Russo nominated Joyce Mariani to receive this prestigious award.  

Basil Russo is the national president of the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the president of The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations in the United States.  Russo is also an inductee of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame, Class of 2017. 

In his induction speech, Russo stated that ‘the Italian American community is honored to present what can appropriately be described as a Renaissance woman who has devoted herself to the celebration of the cultural arts of Italy by initiating exceptional cultural programs and events that have enriched so many.’

Joyce Mariani is proud to acknowledge that her deep love for the culture of Italy was handed down from her family of Florentine and Roman origin.  In 2006, upon her return to the United States from Italy, Mariani founded the Cleveland Italian Film Festival - the first independent film festival in Northeast Ohio that showcases award-winning films from Italy at Cleveland area theaters.

As Executive Director of the Italian Cultural Garden, Joyce Mariani began a $1.5 million restoration of Cleveland’s public cultural monument to Italy in Rockefeller Park in Cleveland, Ohio.  From its inception, the Italian Cultural Garden lauds Italian cultural greats in the Arts & Letters and Arts & Sciences.

In 2008, through Mariani’s efforts, the opera nel giardino Italiano was revived after a sixty-five year absence; the first plenaire opera in the Italian Cultural Garden was performed in the 1930’s.  Currently, Opera in the Italian Garden features the Cleveland Opera and the Cleveland Ballet.  The popular summer event draws thousands of spectators every year to this unique Renaissance garden.

With intention to highlight the culinary arts of Italy, in 2011 Mariani initiated an annual gala dinner for the public.  The success of her gala Italian pranzi derives from the specialized cuisine from different regions of Italy that is prepared by prominent Italian chefs of Cleveland.

Joyce Mariani was presented the Italian Heritage Award in 2008 by Mayor Frank Jackson at Cleveland City Hall for her scholarly and multifaceted work restoring and promoting the historical importance of the 1930 Italian Cultural Garden as a public cultural monument to Italy.  Mariani’s dedication to the cultural arts of Italy has been her continuous surge of inspiration to ‘re-educate the public about the symbolic nature of the Italian Cultural Garden.’

Mariani has lectured about Renaissance gardens and is presently writing about newly discovered historical information pertaining to the creation of the Italian Cultural Garden that was dedicated in 1930 in Cleveland’s Rockefeller Park.

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