Arthur Towne Ballman
Theater and art
Island Players' renovation architect Art Ballman is seated in the new lobby he designed. Islander file photo.
Art Ballman for the stage. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
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Arthur Towne Ballman, 65, of Bradenton and formerly Holmes Beach, died Sept. 21.
Born in Miami, Mr. Ballman was named for his maternal grandfather, Ithiel Towne, a prominent architect in the 1800s. Towne designed projects such as Center Church on the Green in New Haven, Conn., and public buildings in Washington, D.C., including the U.S. Treasury Building. Ballman graduated from high school at Miami Edison and received a degree in architecture from Georgia Technical Institute in 1961. His professional career began in Miami and qualified him to be selected to work with noted architect Charles W. Moore, chairman of the school of architecture at Yale University.
By 1966, Ballman became partner in an Essex, Conn., firm of international importance where he specialized in residential and multifamily designs for clients in Los Angeles, New York, Vermont and Connecticut. In 1971, he opened his own practice in New Haven, later expanded to Litchfield, Conn., and produced notable projects in New York, Acapulco, Mexico, and Connecticut, including the Litchfield Congregational Church. He was sought for custom-design projects for additions to private residences, including the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and many of his designs were featured in House Beautiful magazine.
In 1989, Ballman semi-retired and moved to Florida to develop a "boutique" professional practice as he became involved in the Anna Maria Island art and theater community. He served two terms as president of the Artists Guild Gallery in Holmes Beach, and his oil and watercolor paintings and prints have been available at the gallery for more than 10 years.
His theater service began, as he put it, when "I went to a play one night and that appealed to me. I volunteered for painting scenery and this evolved, beginning in 1994, to a role as one of the set designers for the Island Players."
Theater attendees will remember sets that included "Barefoot in the Park," "Charlie's Aunt" and "The Hand the Rocks the Cradle."
His knowledge of the theater and its needs made him the "architect of choice" for designing the major addition to the Island Players theater in 1997 that added a new lobby, entrance, box office, restrooms and storage area.
Ballman also appeared on stage in "Foxfire," and his most notable role as Elwood P. Dowd in the comedy "Harvey," on which he philosophizes, "As a child I was told that to be successful in life, one must be either very smart or very nice. I decided to be very nice."
He also designed renovations to the existing fellowship hall and kitchen for Roser Memorial Community Church, expansion and renovations to the Key Royale Club and custom houses on Anna Maria and Longboat Key. In 1996, Ballman entered a national design competition for the new housing in the Laurel Park Neighborhood of Sarasota, in which he was the winner.
He is survived by cousins Joseph and Dorthea Gunson of Davie, Fla., and Tonie Carter of Davenport, Fla., as well as many friends who have loved him for his charm, wit and kindness over the years.
A memorial celebration is being planned for Saturday, Oct. 23, with a time and place to be announced at a later date. For more information, contact Phyllis Elfenbein after Oct. 6 at 778-4412.