Arts Tour from Statesville to the High Country

Arts Tour from Statesville to the High Country

A Ben Long fresco at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Jefferson

Take a trip through northwestern North Carolina to see magnificent frescoes by artist Ben Long. Along the way, you’ll also enjoy the state’s largest family-owned winery, down-home country cooking, Appalachian crafts, and historic and picturesque High Country attractions.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Explore the history of racing and the art of fresco, visit the state’s largest family-owned winery and take in a dinnertime drama.

Day 2: Head to the mountains to take in more beautiful frescoes and country cooking.

Day 3: Enjoy Appalachian culture and mountain views in the High Country.

Day 1: Images at the Crossroads, Shelton Vineyards and outdoor drama

Start your day with a visit to Images at the Crossroads, a Ben Long fresco at the Statesville Civic Center. Noted artist Ben Long began his study of fine arts in the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, Long traveled to Florence, Italy, to learn the art of fresco. Today, travelers to North Carolina can see Long’s talent up close in the seven stunning true frescoes he has completed in North Carolina.

Next, head to Shelton Vineyards, which is North Carolina’s largest family-owned vineyard. Here you can tour, taste and enjoy a snack or a meal at the Harvest Grill.

Finally, enjoy an evening of local history at the Forest Edge Amphitheater in Wilkesboro. During the summer, BlueMoon Productions performs an outdoor drama here depicting the life of the legendary Tom Dula, hanged in the 1860s for murdering his girlfriend. It was one of the first highly publicized crimes of passion in the nation and was the basis for the song Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley.

Day 2: Churches of the Frescoes and West Jefferson

Start the day at the Wilkes Heritage Museum. Learn more about the fast-driving racecar legend Junior Johnson, the moonshine business in old North Carolina and see the cell where Tom Dula was incarcerated in the Old Wilkes Jail.

Then visit the Churches of the Frescoes in Glendale Springs and West Jefferson to begin to see how Ben Long truly transformed plaster into magnificent in his frescoes.

For lunch, stop in at Shatley Springs Inn for a real Southern meal.

You can walk off your down-home country dinner 10 miles away in West Jefferson. Visit galleries and view the large-scale outdoor murals on the buildings downtown. And don’t miss the Ashe County Cheese Company & Store, where you can purchase delicious locally made cheese, butter and fresh cheese curd. If you’re there on a weekday, you can even see how the products are made.

From West Jefferson, 25 miles of beautiful mountain roads will carry you to Boone, where you can find anything from exquisite vegetarian food to hearty country fare for dinner.

Day 3: Parkway Craft Center, Grandfather Mountain, Valle Crucis and Boone

Start the day by browsing the wares of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The works are on display and for sale at the Parkway Craft Center, housed at Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Blowing Rock.

Next, travel down the Parkway to Grandfather Mountain and venture across the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Before you go, visit the seven environmental habitats to see black bears, cougars, deer and otters. You also can learn about gems, minerals, plants and endangered species at the Nature Museum.

Now head to the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, where you’ll step into a turn-of-the-century general store, preserved and fully stocked with yesteryear and modern-day necessities. Once known for carrying everything from cradles to caskets, the original store still has everything from a Post Office to a candy shop to an outfitter post. The store is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.

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