The Wesley Mancini Foundation will cease operation as of June 30, citing that it has accomplished its goals as established when it was created over 20 years ago.
The foundation had been providing funds for projects that foster the inclusion of LGBT individuals as full participants in the Charlotte community. The foundation also funded work seeking to eliminate censorship and support freedom of expression.
In April, the foundation awarded its last grant of $30,000 to endow residencies for LGBT artists-in-residence at McColl Center for Visual Art, 721 N. Tryon St. Recipients will use the funds in their work to address issues of the LGBT community and freedom of speech and expression at the center.
The foundation was created as a response to the controversy surrounding a 1996 Charlotte staging of “Angels in America,” a play with gay and HIV/AIDS-related themes. In response, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted in 1997 to strip public funding from arts groups that offered “exposure to perverted forms of sexuality.”
The foundation’s initial funding was provided by Mancini and a contribution of $100,000. When it was founded, the group was the sole local resource for funding LGBT non-profits. Since then, the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund has also been established. “The Charlotte LGBT community, though still under attack, has matured and prospered since 1999 as our city at large has grown in acceptance and fairness,” Mancini said in a release. “This is a good time to end the foundation’s annual grants program and endow an artist residency at McColl Center, which I have long supported. There is still much work that needs to be accomplished in Charlotte’s ability to embrace diversity. The work done by an artist-in-residence at McColl will reach audiences far greater than what we have achieved in the past, which is one of the reasons why I am excited about this merger.”
“McColl Center for Visual Art is the residency field leader for advancing artists as creative change agents for important issues such as social justice and human rights,” Suzanne Fetscher, McColl president and CEO, said in a release. “Mancini’s visionary support advances McColl Center for Visual Art’s firmly held beliefs that art and artists are catalysts for positive social change. Through his generous support, the center is able to give the wonderful work of the Wesley Mancini Foundation the opportunity to live on in perpetuity.”
McColl’s social justice focus gives artists with a community artmaking practice an avenue to draw together disparate networks through embodied discourse about issues that are uncomfortable, even forbidden or taboo. This dialogue is the first and often most difficult step towards understanding and lasting social change.
“None of this would be possible without the support of community luminaries like Mancini,” Fetscher added. “The wonderful work of the foundation will live on in perpetuity through his visionary decision to make it the catalyst for something bigger. McColl is grateful to Mancini, and to all of its partners who will join Wesley in the fight for equal rights through the arts.”