Among the last of the old, working, waterfront art studios in Provincetown is that used by the painter Heather Bruce (b 1957). Its lineage is impeccable, as it was constructed by her great-grandfather, Frank A. Days (±1849-1937), who was the town’s premier builder and the man whose lumber and coal yard — now the Fine Arts Work Center — once housed artists’ studios. Though it appears to be part of Angels’ Landing, 353½ (or 353C) Commercial Street occupies its own separate tax lot and is still owned by the Days/Bruce family.
The structure was originally one long building, used for mending nets. In 1922, the painter Julius David Katzieff (1892-1957) came to Provincetown and moved into Days’s shed. Days accommodated the painter by creating two large notches on the eastern elevation of the structure for deeply inset windows that came close to offering a true north orientation. This marvelously practical but sculptural facade almost seems to prefigure Marcel Breuer’s composition for the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Days, an Azorean who had come to Provincetown as an 18-year-old, established the firm of F. A. Days & Sons with Frank A. Days Jr. and Joseph Days. Among other contracts, the company constructed the Provincetown High School, the Governor Bradford School (now the Community Center) and two cold storage plants. In August 1937, he fell from the second-floor porch in his home at 353 Commercial and died in a Boston hospital three days later. His daughter Mary Days O’Neill was Bruce’s grandmother.
Twenty years after Days’s fatal accident, Katzieff, best known as a portraitist in his later years, died in this studio following a heart attack. He had enjoyed some celebrity several months earlier when his portrait of Sherman Adams, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s powerful chief of staff, had been unveiled at the Dartmouth Outing Club House. Katzieff was a visiting instructor at Dartmouth College. (And Adams was two years away from his dismissal for accepting a vicuña coat from a businessmen under investigation by the federal government.)
Bruce holds a degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. From 1983 to 1990, she studied at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown with both Henry Hensche and Lois Griffel. She is represented by the Julie Heller Gallery, which has been showing her work since 1990.