The Castellani Art Center at Niagara University was founded by one of Niagara County’s most accomplished families — the founders of Tops Markets. Many in Niagara Falls, looking to build out a cultural tourism industry that is resistant to seasonal cyclicality, think that the collection could be the anchor of an artistic renaissance in the city.
They imagine the adaptive reuse of the former Occidental Chemical Building — which has more than 90,000 square feet of potential exhibit space available — and located just across the street from the State Park. A museum would derive enormous stature from being located within photo-frame of the Falls, immediately recognizable to global audiences.
Some advocates of the concept project more than 2 million attendees each year, attributable largely to the location. At $10 a ticket, the project could generate substantial earnings for the Castellani collection — while creating dozens of new jobs in the arts community.
The building sits at the south end of Main Street, which stretches two miles north to the City’s new train station. Development advocates imagine blocks and blocks of vacant storefronts repurposed as small gallery spaces for Torontonian artists who might be attracted to the inexpensive square footage and the easy train ride from Union Station.
The future of tourism is in culture and eco-recreation, they argue.
A legacy worth celebrating
The late Armand and Ellenor Castellani founded the Castellani Art Museum. They began collecting art in the 1960’s about the same time that their grocery business grew into a corporation. Mr. Castellani started in the grocery business at age 16 as a manager of his father’s grocery store in Niagara Falls.
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, 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 a Dutch firm.
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 the Castellanis.
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. 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.
Castellani was twice named by the Buffalo News as Citizen of the Year; and was named the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award by the New York State University Board of Trustees. Although Armand and Eleanor Castellani are no longer with us, the Castellani Family continues to support the museum their parents founded.
Connect with the project – Matthew Ricchiazzi – 716.548.3371