Fresco artist Ben Long, known for his paintings at Ashe County’s Saint Mary’s and Holy Trinity Episcopal churches, became North Carolina’s newest member of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine during a tribute at Jefferson Landing on Monday, June 30.
“I would to thank those of you in Ashe County, who have formed this foundation and have recognized the importance of preserving this treasure,” said Sharon Decker, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce. “It brings me great joy to think about the generations that will come after us, who won’t know Ben Long personally, but will know of him and his talents.”
The event, hosted by the Ashe County Frescoes Foundation, celebrated Long’s works and the importance of his efforts to tourism in Ashe County. The Ashe County Frescoes Foundation was founded in 2008 to protect and promote the frescoes.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented by the Governor of North Carolina and is considered one of the state’s most prestigious awards. The award is presented to people who have a long record of service to the state.
Before the presentation got underway, Long’s personal friend and former U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Stanley Phillips read letters from North Carolina Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr congratulating Long on his endeavors.
“Congratulations on being recognized by the Order of the Long Leaf Pine,” Phillips said, reading the note from Senator Burr. “For years thousands have enjoyed your fresco work and recognize its unique styles.”
Senator Hagan wrote to Long, “On behalf of the state of North Carolina, I like to thank you for your contributions to the North Carolina arts community and congratulate you for a successful and influential career.”
The award was given to Long by Decker and N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz.
Decker said when she talks about job creation throughout the state she says the state has to focus on health, education, economic development, quality of life and arts, tourism and culture.
“One of the reasons that I can talk about arts, culture and tourism, and say that it is a critical part of North Carolina’s economy, one of the reasons is Ben Long,” Decker said. “Because of your creation of these frescoes in this state, you came back to this state with a passion of something you loved and brought it to North Carolina.”
Decker and Kluttz then invited Long to the podium to give him the award and recite the state’s official toast.
“This is a tremendous honor, and also it goes along with the fact that I get to be with lot of people here, a lot of great friends,” Long said. “There are so many talented artists in this state.”
In addition to having frescoes in Ashe County, Long also has painted frescoes in Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Wilkes counties.
After the ceremony, Kluttz spoke of her gratitude for being in attendance of Long’s celebration.
“I am honored to be here to night to celebrate someone whose art has had a tremendous impact on North Carolina and our cultural resources, Kluttz said. “By sharing his talent, Ben Long has brought worldwide attention to our state. We are most grateful for his contributions.”
Decker also spoke of the honor of being in Ashe County to present the award.
“We were sent on behalf of the Governor, and it’s such an honor to be here to celebrate him,” she said. “He is so tremendous for North Carolina and he really is one of the reasons North Carolina is special. This is really an honor.”
Long after the ceremony remained speechless in receiving the award and enjoying the celebration.
“I don’t know what I said and I don’t know what to say,” he said.
For more information on Ben Long and his frescoes, visit www.ashefrescoes.org/, or www.benlongfrescotrail.org/.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.