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Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani, founders of the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, began collecting art in the 1960’s about the same time that Armand’ Castellani’s grocery business grew into a corporation. Mr. Castellani started in the grocery business at age 16 as manager of his father's grocery store in Niagara Falls, New York. After serving in the military, he returned to the grocery business in Niagara Falls where he opened the Great Bear Market in 1951. In partnership with Thomas A. Buscaglia he founded Niagara Frontier Services, the forerunner to Tops Markets, which now operates the largest chain of supermarkets in Western New York. After Mr. Castellani’s retirement as CEO and president of Tops Markets the corporation was sold to Royal Arnold, a Dutch firm. In 2007, the company was acquired by Morgan Stanley and has returned to its roots of local management under the banner "Tops Friendly Markets."
In 1978, Mr. Castellani helped support the construction of the Buscaglia-Castellani Art Gallery (on a satellite campus of Niagara University) as a remembrance to Thomas Buscaglia, who died in 1967 and as a gift to Niagara University and the Western New York community. At that time the Castellani’s collection consisted of about 300 19th and 20th century artworks.
By 1989, their collection had grown to over 3,000 works, and the new Castellani Art Museum was built on Niagara University's Main Campus in 1990, largely with the support and vision of Armand Castellani and his wife, Eleanor. Other important contributions came from area businessmen, The Borden Foundation, The Seymour Knox Foundation, Tops Friendly Markets, and the National Heritage Trust Foundation of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation.
While most of Armand and Eleanor Castellani’s collection of contemporary art resides in the Castellani Art Museum, with a major portion donated to the University they have also donated important works to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo and other prominent museums. In addition, they have been generous patrons of the arts to a host of arts organizations in Western New York, large and small. Mr. Castellani served on the boards of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, and Niagara University.
Mr. Castellani received many accolades and awards, among them the Buffalo News Citizen of the Year (twice) and the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award from the New York State University Board of Trustees and the New York State Council on the Arts Award.
Although Armand and Eleanor Castellani are no longer with us, the Castellani Family continues to support the museum their parents founded.
The Museum makes an equally important aesthetic contribution to the University's main campus. The building is faced with beautiful white-gray marble imported from Italy. Twelve massive pillars frame the approach through exterior and interior sculpture courts and seven individual galleries branch off the majestic 20 foot high central exhibition hall. The facility houses a Museum Shop, office complex, storage and preparation areas, and studio and classroom space for the University's Fine Arts program. The Museum was designed by Thomas Moscati, architect who founded TRM Architect firm in 1977. The building was dedicated and officially opened on September 23, 1990.