With a sword in hand, 103-year-old Gen Schiralli cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Schiralli Art Gallery on Tuesday, September 20. The gallery, owned by her son, Artist Rocco Schiralli, offers a quiet, peaceful escape from the fast-paced atmosphere that has encompassed many of our lives today.
The sword used to cut the ribbon has been a Schiralli family heirloom for decades. Rocco’s father discovered it when he was rummaging through a junkyard in his hometown of Gary, and quickly found the artifact had quite a unique history behind it.
“We all grew up in Gary, Indiana, and when my dad was a boy, he was looking for things in a junkyard in Gary, and he found a Civil War sword dated 1865 from one of the U.S. soldiers,” Rocco Schiralli said. “My dad had that sword and I remember it my whole life because it was in our house.”
Years later, that sword is still making history in 2022, this time in the heart of downtown Valpo.
“Today, my 103-year-old mother is going to use that same Civil War sword to cut the ribbon for the ribbon cutting at Schiralli Art,” Rocco Schiralli said. “I mean, how cool is that? You have my dad when he was a little boy finding a sword from the Civil War, and my mom is going to use that Civil War sword today to cut a ribbon cutting in 2022.”
The gallery itself, along with the Cozy Cafe, managed by Rocco’s wife Tammy Rose-Schiralli, and the RocCozy Inn, opened to the public on July 20, the same day he noted that man first walked on the moon, and also his grandmother’s birthday.
“Business has been good so far. We've been selling art, wine, gifts,” Rocco Schiralli said. “We booked some parties and we have some more parties that we're going to be booking for the holidays. We already have a handful of regular customers that come in. The word is just getting out, but we're very pleased to have this gallery.”
Rocco Schiralli calls his gallery a ‘beyond, beyond experience,’ meaning he wants any and all visitors to experience all the gallery’s senses to its full potential, from the art, to the smell of food, both homegrown and imported from Italy, to the architecture of the 122-year-old-house, and everything in between.
This business venture has also allowed Rocco Schiralli to reconnect with friends he hasn’t seen in a while, something he’d never expected would happen with the opening of the gallery.
“I've had some friends come in high school, friends, co-workers that I haven't haven't seen in decades, and they heard that we had the gallery and they unexpectedly would show up and that was a great surprise,” he said. “I just had a friend show up today, a nurse that I used to work with that I haven't seen in a long time, and he stopped by, and I had a couple of friends here today. One was my kindergarten friend; she's here today, and two other friends came from Hawaii.”
While some friends have ventured out, the Schiralli family remains close in Northwest Indiana, and many have contributed their time and talents to the gallery as well. Terry Tsirtsis, Rocco’s sister, makes custom hand-made cards that are sold at the gallery, and John Schiralli, Rocco’s brother, helps with the woodworking and the making of much of the furniture that displays some of the artwork throughout the building.
“It's been a dream of Rocky’s for so many years, and I think it's really nice that he was able to do that after he retired from his other job and that he includes us,” Tsirtsis said.
Such an opportunity has also been a dream come true for Rose-Schiralli, who is looking forward to working alongside her husband in the Cozy Cafe.
“It feels great,” she said. “It still feels like a ‘pinch me’ moment to know we did it. We worked hard and we put our heart and soul into it. We wanted the cafe to complement the uniqueness of the building, the gallery, the artwork, because it is all unique.”
The Schiralli Art Gallery, the Cozy Cafe, and the RocCozy Inn are open for visits, small parties, get-togethers, and more, so be sure to visit schiralliart.com to get started on your ‘beyond, beyond experience’ today.