ASC Honors-Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Arts, Science or History celebrates the lifetime achievements of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg resident in the visual, design or performing arts, history, literature or science. Thanks to the generosity of the Cato Corporation, ASC is also able to honor lifetime achievement in teaching art, science and history for Pre-K-12 teachers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region with the ASC Honors-Cato Lifetime Achievement in Teaching Awards.
By Bea Quirk
Wesley Mancini was drawn to art when he was growing up in Connecticut, he says, “because the art teacher was the only unusual person I knew.”
So he went to the (then) Philadelphia College of Art, where he became interested in fiber. He did some fiber art, but soon realized he couldn’t support himself and his mother that way. So he went into textile design instead.
The world is richer for it. Although Mancini is not a household name, his work – encompassing more than 15,000 fabrics — graces households across the world. As the designer of fabrics for bedding ensembles, decorative trimming, drapery and rugs, Mancini’s name is often not on the items; it’s the brand name that appears: such as Henredon, Kravel, Duralee or Horchow. Well-known designers such as Alexander Julian and Laura Ashley have purchased his designs that now carry their names. Interior Magazine, an international publication based in London, once called him “America’s best secret.”
But Mancini is no secret in Charlotte, where he opened his company, Wesley Mancini, Ltd., in 1983 to be near the textile industry. Many of those mills are closed now, but he still works extensively with Valdese Weavers in Valdese, NC. The firm was based in an uptown historic building that he renovated on North Tryon Street for more than a decade. Last year, he moved into a loft in the South End.
“My passion is patterns and creating something beautiful,” says Mancini. “For me, textiles are about aesthetics as well as the tactile thing. It’s very much a hands-on design process. So I have studied weave structure, dyeing and finishing, and how looms work.”
Mancini’s fiber art has been exhibited widely, and pieces are owned by the NC Museum of history and RJ Reynolds. In 1983, he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that he used to buy a large wooden loom that still dominates a space in his home.
Mancini is also a community activist. In 2000, he formed the Wesley Mancini Foundation, which supports freedom of speech and funds projects that foster the inclusion of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual individuals in the Charlotte community.