Giovanna Raccosta:Mormon Artist
Giovanna Raccosta is an internationally acclaimed portrait artist. She was born and raised in Italy. She now lives in the United States.
She began oil painting at age 9. When she was 14, she persuaded her parents to send her to the big city alone to attend the prestigious Liceo Artistico of Palermo. She became self-sufficient as she cooked gourmet on a small budget, entertained new friends, and attended art shows while studying art. She saved money to go back home to Paceco (near Trapani in the Sicilian region) and to travel through Italy to study the Renaissance masters. At age 17 she graduated with top honors and continued her studies at the Architecture College in Italy.
In her last year in Palermo, she met missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a bus stop. When she returned home for the summer, she was taught by sister missionaries and joined the Church. She later served a full-time mission to Rome. To fund her mission, she worked an entire year on still life and landscapes and held a large art auction. While on her mission, her sister and mother joined the Church. Her father passed away from cancer during her mission.
After her mission, she moved to Rome, and then when friends invited her to visit the United States, she moved to California. However, when she saw the type of art that people had on their walls—posters and Chinese art— she put away her brushes and stopped painting. She worked as a waitress in Pasadena for a couple of years then moved to Florida and worked as a waitress in an Italian restaurant for six years.
The owner of the restaurant told her that he was going to open a new restaurant, which needed some murals, and he asked her if she knew someone who could paint them. Her response was “That would be me.” When the restaurant opened, customers started commissioning her to paint. She never went back to waitressing again. She also started studying portraiture and studied privately for a year with a master teacher.
Raccosta now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her portraits have been seen on the set of the television shows “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” She is commissioned to paint children, families, and occasionally pets.
After a vivid dream that inspired her to feed the homeless of the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, she created “Dinner on Us.” She creates a theme and, with 200 volunteers, feeds the homeless once a month in a dinner that features fresh flowers, linen covered tables, and lavish entertainment. She feeds over 500 meals at each event. The volunteers also hand out lip balm, socks, and hygiene items.
In other efforts, she provides skeins of yarn so that youths in detention can make blankets and scarves for the homeless.
She and her group of volunteers have worked with a regional chapter of Boys Town to remodel the foster children’s bedrooms, which hadn’t been updated for 23 years. She and her 40 volunteers painted walls, and added new comforters and sheets, and a goodie bag with pajamas, towels, a comfy throw, and bit of Italian chocolate.
Raccosta is writing a cookbook. Her life story will be included in a forthcoming book, “Distinguished Women of Nevada.”
Her husband, Bardia Nezhati, was baptized by Elder Craig Cardon, her former mission president. She has two daughters and son.