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Following the family art path into the backyard

Gabriella Ritts, a La Cañada High School graduate and current student at Maryland Institute College of Art, organized a backyard studio art show last weekend. She keeps a photo of her dad, the late actor and puppeteer Mark Ritts, close by in her converted garage art studio at home. It was his former office.

Gabriella Ritts, a La Cañada High School graduate and current student at Maryland Institute College of Art, organized a backyard studio art show last weekend. She keeps a photo of her dad, the late actor and puppeteer Mark Ritts, close by in her converted garage art studio at home. It was his former office.

(Photo by Matt Sanderson)
By Matt Sanderson

A Saturday evening backyard art display showcased the range of work of several La Cañada High School graduates, more so highlighting the host’s inescapable desire to follow in the creative footsteps of her family.

Gabriella Ritts, daughter of actress and singer Teresa Parente and late actor and puppeteer Mark Ritts, transformed her father’s former garage office for a studio art exhibit and sale. She spent the last month preparing almost around the clock, according to her mother.

“He came here every day,” Gabriella said of her father, who died 5 1/2 years ago of kidney cancer.

“I feel I was making him proud,” she added about her effort, showing a shelf in the studio devoted to Mark’s creations and achievements, including his Emmy for PBS’ Storytime. “When he died. I knew I had to do something. It was a sanctuary. It helped me so much.”

Teresa Parente, best known for her role as a television news reporter on “Married… With Children,” said that her daughter grew up surrounded by artists, adding that her step-grandparents were the famous puppeteers of Ritts Puppets in the 1950s, and her grandfather Paul Ritts made the puppets, including “Albert the Chipmunk,” by hand.

At the Maryland Institute College of Art, where Gabriella attends school, she created her own course in art history, according to her mother.

Of the art show, Gabriella said she looked at it mostly as a way to gain experience. She has an interest in creating art for a living, and would possibly like to curate, too. She said she enjoys trying a variety of mediums. A few hours into the night she said she sold between $200 and $300 worth of artwork.

Gabriella’s friends whose artworks were also featured last Saturday include fellow Maryland Institute students Jacob Child and Amy Goddard; Remi Nichols, who studies at Pratt Institute; Bryn Lourie, Rhode Island School of Design; Chantelle Cheung, University of California, Riverside; Masha Karelina, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Leandra Bonner and Brayton Hammerli, both of whom attend Pasadena City College.

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Matt Sanderson is a contributing writer.


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