On a windy July day on Galveston’s historic seawall, Gloria Levy Herman celebrated her 90th birthday a few weeks early.
Her children sponsored the beautification of one of the benches on the seawall in her honor.
With family and friends present, Gloria cut the ribbon on a ceramic mural of The Balinese Room near the pier where the nightclub used to sit.
The renovated bench is part of Project S.I.T., a beautification program spearheaded by Artist Boat, an environmental educational nonprofit that has been operating in Galveston and the surrounding area for more than 10 years.
There are 70 concrete benches from Holiday Drive to 61st Street that are in varying states of disrepair. Some have been painted while others are no more than piles of concrete.
Galveston County Artist Boat is working with schools and individual sponsors to commission artists to design ceramic murals highlighting our coastal heritage.
Gloria’s son Carl Herman and his wife, Randi Faust, heard about Project S.I.T. last October.
They talked it over with Carl’s brothers and decided a bench about the Balinese room would be apposite because of a deep family history with Galveston and with the club.
Gloria Levy Herman was born on the island on Aug. 6, 1924.
Her father, Adrian Levy, was the mayor of Galveston from 1932-1936.
Gloria has fond memories of Galveston but the Balinese Room has special significance.
In 1918, Gloria’s parents were engaged at the Balinese, and in 1950, Gloria’s future husband picked the Balinese as the perfect place to propose.
Last January, Artist Boat issued a call for artist’s proposals for the bench tops.
Of the six themes, the Balinese received the most submissions.
Eventually, the jury comprised of local artists and curators selected a design by Houston artist Candice Davis.
Artist Boat provided Davis with glaze and tiles.
Once completed, the tiles were fired and professionally installed.
The mural combines imagery from the Balinese and some of the colorful history of the nightclub.
The Balinese Room played a big role in Galveston’s culture and economy.
Almost every BOI (Born on the Island) and IBC (Islander by Choice) has a good story or memory of the legendary nightclub.
Gloria’s story is unique, but it allows us to share our own experiences.
Places come to hold a space in our shared memories and history.
Gloria’s story reminds us of not just the Balinese Room, but also of Galveston’s history.
Gloria’s bench is just one of 70 along a 5.5-mile stretch of the seawall.
Artist Boat has completed 18 benches and is accepting design proposals for six new sponsored themes.
The completed benches stand out, creating a visual trail from one bench to the next, sparkling in the sun and enticing islanders and tourists alike to rest and look out at the gulf.
Behind each bench are histories as unique as Gloria’s story.
Nick Barbee is residency program coordinator at Artist Boat and lives in Galveston.