Updated: April 2019
A Modern Concert Venue with Stunning Ben Long Ceiling Fresco
The Municipal Auditorium of the City of Morganton, also known as CoMMA by locals, is a modern venue hosting concerts, Broadway shows, dance shows and theater as part of their MainStage Series, which typically runs from August to May.
An intimate outdoor amphitheater, The BackPorch, is located off the main gallery and features artists from North Carolina to Nashville during the summer months.
The Ben Long Ceiling Fresco
You may want to take a seat in one of the viewing chairs and relax while you admire the spectacular ceiling fresco in the atrium, titled Sacred Dance & the Muses, by Ben Long.
Ben Long is a world-renowned fresco artist, who uses 15th-century techniques to paint his stunning artworks. He learned these ancient techniques during his 9-year apprenticeship with Maestro Pietro Annegoni in Florence, Italy. His apprenticeship culminated in 1976 when he received the prestigious Leonardo da Vinci International Art Award.
The fresco measures approximately 24 feet (7 meters) wide and 33 feet (10 meters) long. The existing ceiling had to be removed to allow for the installation of mesh and plaster coats that would accept the fresco. It took Ben Long and his team of three master artists and six apprentices three months to complete the project in April 2004.
For the fresco, Ben Long chose the Nine Muses of Greek Mythology. The Nine Muses were Greek deities, who gave artists and philosophers inspiration and creativity. Adding to this theme, he included two giant masks representing the Greek symbols of comedy and tragedy.
Following his artistic tradition of closely modeling the faces of the figures in his frescos on those of his family, colleagues, and friends, he included his friend Samuel Gray, director of the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort NC, as the person dressed in a dark suit and surrounded by flames.
He also captured his teacher, Maestro Pietro Annegoni of Florence, Italy, who stands behind a group of humans and raises his right arm as if he wanted to wave.
The person sitting on the stairs with paintbrushes in his hands and an exhausted look on his face is said to be the artist Ben Long himself.
Other Works from Ben Long
Other frescos by Ben Long can be viewed in Uptown Charlotte in the lobby of the → Bank of America Corporate Center, in the → Historic First Presbyterian Church and inside the open-air public archway of the TransAmerica Square.
Did You Know?
Fresco comes from the Italian word for fresh, referring to the process of painting on plaster, a technique and a medium Michelangelo (1475-1564) used to paint the ceiling of the famous Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City, Rome, Italy.
The plaster is a mix of lime and sand. The artist applies the mix onto the wall and then paints the area while it is still wet, which requires perfect timing and great skill as the pigments of the paint bond rapidly with the wet plaster.
Mon. to Fri.: 10am to 5pm.
Mon. to Fri.: 12pm to 5pm.
Depending on the show.
Prices depend on the show and the seat.
Free on-premise parking.
The Municipal Auditorium is accessible by wheelchair.
Restrooms are available.