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Castellani family makes $1 million gift to Niagara University

by jmaloni
Thu, Mar 1st 2012 12:00 pm

Family's gift dedicated to Castellani Art Museum on NU's campus

Niagara University announced today that it has received a $1 million gift from the Castellani family for continuing support of the Castellani Art Museum on the university's campus.

"The art museum is a very special place for our family," said Robert Castellani, a 1964 Niagara University graduate and current member of NU's board of trustees. "We want to continue the legacy that our parents left and support the museum as a premier resource for students, the university and the community."

"We continue to be grateful to the members of the Castellani family for their generous support of Niagara University and the museum," said the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University. "Their legacy on our campus is very clear and this gift will allow the museum to thrive and continue to be a regional asset for Western New York."

It was Armand and Eleanor Castellani's dream that the museum they founded would serve as "the education museum" for both Niagara University students and the Western New York community. "The ongoing support of the Castellani family through this generous gift will allow us to enhance educational programming for learners of all ages," said Kate Koperski, director of the museum. "In all of our programming, we strive to make learning about art both an eye-opening educational experience and a pleasure."

The museum currently offers a wide variety of educational opportunities. During the annual "Kids' n Arts" summer camp, children are introduced to both the visual arts and theater, and work with a different teaching artist each week. The museum's popular art history lecture series, "Meet Me at the CAM," pairs works from the permanent collection with award-winning DVD series such as the BBC's "The Private Life of a Masterpiece." During free monthly docent tours, visitors get to know the museum in greater depth and see the latest exhibitions on view.

"This gift will help us to revitalize our school tour program," Koperski said.

During the past year, the museum has developed a series of lesson plans that highlight works from the permanent collection and adhere to New York State Learning Standards and Curriculum, as well as the new common core learning standards for English, history, science, math and other subject areas.

"Using the visual arts to teach across the curriculum has been shown to strengthen critical thinking and communication skills, helping to ensure that students are college and career ready," Koperski noted. "The Castellani family gift will help us to market these new curriculum-based school tours to educators and to offer tours at no cost."

About Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani

Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani, founders of the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, began collecting art in the 1960s about the same time that Armand Castellani's grocery business grew into a corporation. He started in the grocery business at age 16 as 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, which now operates the largest chain of supermarkets in Western New York.

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 artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries.

By 1989, their collection had grown to more than 3,000 works, and the new Castellani Art Museum was built on Niagara University's main campus in 1990, largely through the support and vision of Armand and Eleanor.

While most of the Castellani's collection of contemporary art resides in the NU art museum, with a major portion donated to the university, they also contributed important works to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo as well as other prominent museums. In addition, they were generous patrons to a host of arts organizations in Western New York, large and small. He served on the boards of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and Niagara University.

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