Art fans in the High Country have a chance to see the type of painting commonly known as a fresco at three locations in two communities, but all done by one artist.
Frescoes are a type of painting that is done on freshly-wet plaster, thus making the painting a part of the walls. The style was popularized in the Italian Renaissance and has fans all over the world.
In the High Country, there are three frescoes in three different locations. The first two are part of the same church, but with two different locations in Ashe County.
The Parish of the Holy Communion is comprised of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at 400 Beaver Creek School Road. in West Jefferson and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church at 195 J W Luke Road in Glendale Springs.
“We welcome visitors to view our Ben Long frescoes and hope you will also join us for worship services,” the Parish states on its website. “We are an inclusive community of diverse backgrounds, united by our love for God and each other.”
At St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, artist Ben Long arrived in 1976 to work on a fresco he had long discussed to do.
“’The Mystery of Faith was done in the summer of 1977,” St Mary’s website states. “It is said that Ben never quit working on the fresco even during the middle of church. He did stop to accept communion, but then went right back to work.”
In nearby Glendale Springs, The Holy Trinity Church was closed for more than 30 years through the late 1970s when a restoration project started.
“As work progressed on the building, the original furnishings were returned. Today the church has its original pews, Altar and candle stands,” the church’s website states.
Ben Long then added the show stopper fresco “The Lord’s Supper” behind the altar at holy Trinity in 1980.
“Long and 20 of his students spent three months completing the fresco while the church was still undergoing renovations,” the parish stated.”Local people served as models for all the biblical figures except the waiting maid, Judas, Thomas and Christ. Benjamin F. Long was the model for Thomas. In a scrip at the right of the foot-washing bowl, Benjamin F. Long painted a dedication to his father, who died just as the fresco was being completed.”
The two Ashe churches are open 24 hours a day for visitation.
In Avery County, the Crossnore community is home to another of Long’s works as the E.H. Sloop Chapel’s “Suffer the Little Children” has been on display since 2006. The Sloop Chapel is part of The Crossnore School, a private, non-profit children’s home and school.
“For several years, Crossnore School’s Executive Director, Phyllis Crain, dreamed of transforming the dark, wormy chestnut walls of the campus’s E. H. Sloop Chapel with a Ben Long fresco,’ Long’s website states. “She knew she had to realize her dream when she held a child in her lap at a weekly chapel service. She listened as the little girl told her, ‘I don’ t have anybody who loves me. Even my cat ran away.’”
“Completed in 2006, the fresco at The Crossnore School renders the scripture of Mark 10:14, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God,’” Long’s website states. “It features children who were residents at The Crossnore School.”
“Suffer the Little Children” can be viewed seven days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on the High Country’s frescoes, visit highcountryhost.com/NC-High-Country-Frescoe-Trail-Ben-Long.