Louisville native Bruce Burton Vance lived two lives: He studied art with celebrated American Impressionist Daniel Garber in the 1920s and taught mathematics and physics in the Louisville school system for decades.
Vance was the son of a prominent Louisville surgeon and took his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Louisville and his doctorate from the University of Chicago. He taught at duPont Manual High School and part-time at the University of Louisville. He eventually became the supervisor of mathematics and science for Louisville secondary schools.
As an artist, he was mainly active in the 1920s and early 1930s. He studied with Garber at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and with Charles Webster Hawthorne at the Art Students League in New York City. One of his first major exhibitions came in 1926 when the Art Association of Indianapolis sponsored a show of Chicago Art Institute paintings. Vance showed in the company of such artists as Frederick Frieseke, Dixie Selden, John Carlson and William McGregor Paxton. Another major exhibition came in 1925 when the Nashville (Tennessee) Art Association put on a show of Kentucky artists at the public library. Vance shared wall space with Ferdinand Graham Walker, Patty Thum, Paul Plaschke, Walter Ufer and others. And in 1928 Vance was in a touring show of Southern artists, sponsored by the Louisville Art Association, at the Speed Art Museum. He also showed, with his wife, the former Lois Piper, in the Seventh Annual Kentucky and Southern Indiana Artist's Exhibition at the Speed in 1934.
Vance was very active in the Louisville arts community in the late 1920s. He was elected to the board of directors of the Louisville Art Association in 1928 along with Mrs. William Marshall Bullitt, Arthur Loomis and Mrs. William R. Belknap. Vance and his wife designed costumes and stage effects for local theatricals. An abiding interest in gardening led to their founding of the Louisville Hemerocallis Society. Vance also had an abiding interest in astronomy.