Board of Directors Profile – Bruce Ritzen, SANCA Board Secretary

Meet Bruce Ritzen, SANCA’s Board Secretary

Bruce joined us in 2015 as a member of SANCA’s Board of Directors. He is an attorney who works as the King County Council’s Code Reviser, with a focus on legislative drafting and editing. Bruce is an active community member and has served on several nonprofit boards including Meadowbrook Community Care; the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS) at the UW; the King County Employee Giving Program Committee; Maple Leaf Lutheran Church; and the Friends of The Evergreen State College Library. He also volunteers with STG (Paramount, Moore, and Neptune theatres), Seattle Opera (on stage a few times), and the World Peace Through Law and International Law sections of the State Bar Association.

He has a UW BA in History and Masters of Public Affairs, and a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, which included study at London’s Queen Mary College. Hobbies include running, travel, trumpet, piano, and guitar, and Bruce is learning to juggle and fly on the flying trapeze at SANCA.

SANCA: How did you become involved with SANCA?

Bruce: I received my J.D. for the University of Texas at Austin and originally met Gaye McNutt there when we were both law students. After we both ended up in Seattle, we reconnected socially and Gaye told me about her service as a Board Member at a circus school, and I thought that was really amazing. Gaye invited me to a SASS performance and I also took a flying trapeze class. I really enjoyed it and Gaye invited me to join the board.

SANCA: How has SANCA impacted your life?

Bruce: I saw how circus empowered people and was very inclusive for people of all walks of life. I found that very compelling. I was exposed to hundreds of inspirational people from young kids to professional artists, and I found their attitude and ability at every level to be very inspiring. Everyone at SANCA is welcoming and open, and they encourage to others to achieve at any level. This “we’re in this together” approach, even if it’s working on a solo skill is very generous. Students and artists are sharing and helping each other. It is kind of always a group effort.

SANCA: Do you have a favorite circus discipline?

Bruce: Juggling is my favorite. It’s like a good magic trick. Really, it’s all physics and practice, but it looks impossible! Like sleight of hand. I especially enjoy LED and blacklight performances.

SANCA: What inspired you to serve SANCA’s community as a Board Member?

Bruce: Being on the board is a great way for me to help facilitate all the fun, empowerment, and community that makes SANCA the wonderful organization that it is. I like helping to solve problems and make SANCA a better and more sustainable organization.

SANCA: We’re facing challenges now with the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your view of SANCA’s role as an arts organization in Seattle changed or been influenced by this challenge?

Bruce: COVID shows what a hole is left in our community without access to an arts organization like SANCA, and how important access to arts, movement, and fitness is to our emotional, mental, and physical health and wellbeing. It’s also shown the resilience of circus artists and our staff, and how creative we are at working to continue to serve the community — they are really rising to the occasion. Everyone has done a wonderful job keeping people engaged while at home during this time with all the online classes and shows.

SANCA: Given the recent incidents of injustice and racism, and long-standing inequities that are profoundly affecting black and brown people right now, do you have thoughts on how the arts in general, and SANCA in particular, can support efforts for justice and equity?

Bruce: What attracts me to arts in general — I love all arts — it builds empathy across the board. It is always an interaction with someone else’s point of view, whether it is literary art, fine arts, or performing arts. Arts fights the lack of empathy and helps to generate an understanding of other points of view.

SANCA can be part of the effort of modeling of justice and equity in what we do— employment practices, interactions with students, and in the performances that we present. Art and performance sticks with you, it’s very memorable.

I strongly recall “Break Out!” — a show about Title 13 and youth in the justice system. The show was created by our second group of Circus RODA teens in 2017, in partnership with Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club and the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. The teens explored the problem of mass incarceration in the U.S., and it was a profound illustration of the consequences of police brutality and the penal system.

Interview by Jeff Deveaux, Development Director