SPRING GROVE – Using an radial arm saw and some old barn siding, Luke DiSilvestro crafted his first artistic frame 25 years ago while serving in the Air Force in South Dakota.
Little did he know then, his passion for flying airplanes and crafting custom frames would continue throughout his professional career to the present day.
DiSilvestro now owns Legacy Art Framing, a custom-design framing business that he has operated out of his home in Spring Grove for the past 10 years. He has kept his presence in the skies, too. He went from flying fighter jets in the Air Force to flying commercial planes for American Airlines, most recently as a reserve pilot.
He called flying his livelihood. But his framing business has become his passion, a creative outlet that evolved from a personal hobby to a thriving small business.
He has framed anything from artwork and paintings to historic flags and memorabilia, while finding time on his off-days to fly Boeing 777s to places such as London and Beijing.
DiSilvestro sat down with reporter Stephen Di Benedetto to discuss his life as a custom framer and pilot.
Di Benedetto: How do you juggle your framing business while also flying planes?
DiSilvestro: It’s just one of those things where I do the best I can to take care of my customers. Sometimes, it’s the luck of the draw. Most of the time, it works real well. I’m not a high volume shop. This is a second income for me. It’s not just the money. I truly enjoy doing what I do. You get to know people, their stories. I’ve done a lot of wedding memorabilia, draft cards from World War II, death certificates from 100 years ago, christening gowns, the whole works. You get to know people and their stories.
Di Benedetto: Why did you specifically want to join the Air Force?
DiSilvestro: It was a matter of the right place, right time, right parents. My dad was passionate about the Apollo moon landing program. We watched every moon landing. Before flying for the Air Force, that’s what I was going to do – sit on top of a rocket one day and fly to the moon. Eventually, I got away from that but still developed a passion for the military and Air Force. Maybe, it had to do with the planes they had at the time. Back then, the F-16 was just coming online. I just developed a passion for it.
Di Benedetto: Why are you drawn to framing?
DiSilvestro: There’s a creative part to me. Especially when I design a frame and it comes out well, I can sit back and say I designed that and built that. I’ve also had a lot of wonderful customers here. Beyond the actual frames, a lot of it is about getting to know the people. It also helps me become a part of the community. As airline pilots, we tend to fly our trips and come home. By doing this business, it gives me an opportunity to go out to Spring Grove or McHenry and network with people.
Di Benedetto: What has drawn you to flying?
DiSilvestro: When I got into it, it was certainly the challenge of learning it. Actual pilot training is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was a tough program, and it was designed to be that way. Now, especially being international, I fly to London, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo. It’s good to see other worlds and interact with other people. After 20 years or so of flying, I certainly enjoy it, but it’s more of a job now. ... I guess I’m more passionate now about the business since every frame is one of a kind and presents its own unique challenges.