Blue Ridge Heritage Trail – Ben Long Frescoes

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In 2003 the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina were designated the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area by the U.S. Congress. The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a collection of sites throughout that area that embody the remarkable history and culture of the region. There are 70 sites along the Trail, and 5 of those sites are Ben Long IV Frescoes.

Why? This ancient art form in nearly extinct, with few living masters practicing the intricate, time-consuming art. Yet the works, requiring extensive skill and patience that only a master could render, last forever and remain a record of cultural importance and communication for as long as the wall they are painting in stands. Tens of thousands of people visit the North Carolina frescoes every year as they are rare works of art not available, especially in such concentration, in other areas in the United States.

6. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Ben Long Frescoes

(2002) St. Paul’s Conversion and St. Paul Writing his Epistles.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has been in downtown Wilkesboro for over 150 years. In 2002 the Arts Council of Wilkes partnered with St. Paul’s in 2002 to commission Long to paint 2 frescoes in the common area of the church depicting the life of their patron saint.

13. Crossnore School Ben Long Fresco (2006)

Suffer the Little Children.

For over 100 years the Crossnore school has been providing shelter and services for children in the mountains. A non-profit children’s home and school, Crossnore also featured a weaving room and fine art gallery to sustain their mission. Depicting the scripture Mark 10:14, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God,” the fresco features children who were residents at The Crossnore School.

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What’s really great about this Fresco is you can get very close under it and see the ‘dayline’ marks created by the artist and his assistants as he worked on the piece. If you look closely, as in the picture of the knee above, the white outline shows where the works was ‘finished for the day’ and the following day the plaster was laid and the next piece painted.

20. Statesville Civic Center Ben Long Fresco (2002)

Images at the Cross Roads.

Located in the middle of North Carolina, at the intersection of Interstate 40 and 77, Statesville is itself at a crossroads. Featuring Hecate, the goddess of the crossroad, with three faces to see in all directions, this mural challenges the viewer to ponder the decisions and crossroads in their own life.

22. City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium Ben Long Fresco (2004)

Sacred Dance & The Muses

It’s clear from the signage that Morganton is very proud of their Fresco. Clearly marked and easy to find in a large, open and well-maintained building.

38. Montreat Ben Long Fresco (1998)

Return of the Prodigal

Other popular points of interest along the Blue Ridge Heritage Trail are Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns, Chimney Rock, Thomas Wolfe Memorial and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Hot Spring, the North Carolina Arboretum and the Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama.

More information at www.blueridgeheritagetrail.com

The Benjamin F. Long IV Fresco Trail includes these 5 Frescoes, with an additional six:

Two of these are located in small mountain churches just above Boone, N.C., easy to get to if you continue north past the Crossnore School.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Jefferson, NC

Three Frescoes, the first done by Long in the United States, are in this small mountain church: Mary Great with Child (1974), John the Baptist (1976) and The Mystery of Faith (1977).

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Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Glendale Springs, NC,

The Last Supper (1980)

This is another early Fresco done by Long in North Carolina. Holy Tripinty had closed in 1946, and lay empty for 30 years before Father J. Faulton Hodge started a campaign to save it. Long and 20 students completed the Fresco in the summer of 1980 while the church was still under renovation. It was reopened, with the original furnishing returned, and remains open to visitors 24/7 today.

The church also includes multiple other pieces of art by local artists. There is an audio narration of the art given with the push of a button, as well as a brochure available at both this church and St. Mary’s.

The Ben Long Fresco Trail also features four Frescoes in Charlotte at The Bank of America Corporate Center, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Law Enforcement Center, Continuum at Transamerica Square and The Good Samaritan at The First Presbyterian Church.

Since 1978 Long has completed 30 Frescoes in the United States.

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