Throughout his career as a lawyer, Bruce Petrie has always had a painting underway on the easel.
In his third floor studio at home, hundreds of used oil paint brushes in all shapes, colors and sizes are stacked in long rows on a worktable. "I never throw one out," he says. "They've been good tools and are like trail markers of past effort."
His picture-making started at an early age and is still going strong: childhood cartoons and caricatures, followed by magazine illustration and newspaper editorial cartooning; then academic study of drawing and painting and hours of painting outdoors throughout the US and overseas.
"The arts are about connection," Bruce says, "between an inspiration and a picture, between the work and the viewer, between what we see out there and the canvas, between people and ideas."
"I used to think that the arts and the law were separate worlds. But after doing art and law side-by-side, the two interests began to connect. Inspiration is important to lawyering no less than painting. Law and painting involve composition, or persuasive communication of a viewpoint. Also, principles of balance are central to art and law, whose symbol after all is scales. And both art and law require selective emphasis and craftsmanship."
Cincinnati's thriving arts culture has been one of the many reasons he feels connected to the Midwestern place where he and Mimi, his wife of 45 years, have raised twin daughters and two sons. "Cincinnati is experiencing a civic renaissance," he says. "Our community, neighborhoods, businesses and civic culture are stronger because Cincinnatians love and support the arts." On the Board of the Cincinnati Art Museum, a founding member of the Greenacres Artists Guild and a medalist member of Oil Painters of America, Bruce believes Cincinnati's national reputation as an arts-friendly city is growing.
Bruce believes the arts have a unifying, civic role to play in times of national division. He sees the art/law connection as a way to help citizens better understand what he calls "America's best masterpiece": the US Constitution. He teaches an undergraduate course called "Constitutional Conversation" in which students discuss the many ways the Constitution influences our civic lives.
"Seeing the Constitution, not just through the lens of divided politics or hyper-legalism, but more broadly through the lens of culture and the humanities is a way to connect We the People and the next generation of citizens around the values and ideals that hold us together. I think that's what forming a more perfect Union means after all."
Bruce Petrie is a Senior Counselor at Bricker Graydon law firm, having served clients for over forty years in education, health care, public and private sector and constitutional law. He served on the Executive Committee of the Graydon firm for a decade. He is also the President of the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Art Museum (beginning September 2023 for two years and then Chairman).
He’s a graduate of Brown and Northwestern Law, beginning his law career in Chicago as a federal district court law clerk for Hon. John F. Grady .
His community leadership has included presidency of the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor and the Cincinnati Legal Aid Society. Along with other avid cyclists, runners and walkers, he is on the Steering Committee of the Crown, Cincinnati’s first interconnecting 34-mile urban trail.
Bruce is a lifelong visual artist (see www.brucepetrie.com) and arts advocate, a medalist member of Oil Painters of America, a Signature Member of the Cincinnati Art Club and Trustee of the Beverly Stevens Petrie Fund for diverse community arts education.
Using the arts to promote the progress of civic education and citizenship skills on campus, Bruce is an adjunct professor at Miami and University of Cincinnati teaching “Constitutional Conversation” .
He and his wife of 45 years Dr. Mary Petrie have four adult children and are “Mimi & Pete” to seven grandchildren.