Longtime Summit County teacher’s work on display at Arts Alive in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

Longtime Summit County teacher’s work on display at Arts Alive in Breckenridge

Heather Jarvis
Janis Bunchman is the featured artist of the month at Arts Alive Gallery. Her exhibit, “Artful Waxes — Encaustic and Batik Paintings,” will be on display throughout the month. An artist reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Heather Jarvis / hjarvis@summitdaily.com |


What: Artist reception for Janis Bunchman

When: Saturday, Sept. 17; 4–7 p.m.

Where: Arts Alive Gallery, La Cima Mall, 500 S. Main St., Breckenridge

Cost: Free

After a 30-year career with the Summit School District, Janis Bunchman is still not ready to give up teaching. As an art educator, classroom teacher and elementary school principal, she continues her passion for art education in retirement by working with an outreach program for Snowy Peaks High School, as well as programs with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and Wounded Heroes.

She volunteers her time to teach all different mediums, from painting to jewelry making to clay, such as her current work with Snowy Peaks students in mask design. Using tribal designs from around the world, the finished products will be displayed in the County Commons building in Frisco from the end of September through October. She also teaches classes in the Breckenridge Arts District.

Bunchman’s own work in encaustic and batik is currently on display at the Arts Alive Gallery in Breckenridge as September’s Artist of the Month. There will be an opening reception Saturday, Sept. 17 from 4–7 p.m. at the gallery featuring wine and light appetizers. The exhibit, entitled “Artful Waxes — Encaustic and Batik Paintings,” will be on display throughout the month.


Bunchman has lived in Breckenridge for more than 40 years, and now spends her time bouncing between Breckenridge and Tonto Verde, Arizona — where she also teaches workshops for both children and adults. She has a fondness for the Southwest as she grew up in New Mexico, which inspired her to become an artist and continues to influence her artwork. After earning a dual degree in both elementary and art education, she moved to Summit County to teach fourth grade. She spent six years in the classroom before accepting a job as an art teacher for the next 12. She ended her career as a principal.

“It was fun teaching teachers how to be good teachers,” she said. “But even as a principal I would go into the classrooms and I would give teachers a break and teach art, integrate it into the curriculum.”

She became interested in the encaustic technique after taking a workshop at the Scottsdale arts center. Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, uses heated beeswax with colored pigments. The liquid paste is then applied to a surface, such as prepared wood or canvas. Metal tools and specials brushes are used to shape the paint before it cools, giving it a very three-dimensional look. The wax can also be manipulated after it cools with heated tools, allowing artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material.

Batik is a medium she has worked with for about four years. To make a batik, Bunchman said, selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by brushing or drawing hot wax over them, and the cloth is then dyed. The parts covered in wax resist the dye and remain the original color. This process of waxing and dyeing can be repeated to create more elaborate and colorful designs. After the final dyeing, the wax is removed and the cloth is ready for wearing or showing.


Bunchman has been an artist with the Arts Alive Gallery for the last six years, and her work with Snowy Peaks and other outreach programs are part her participation on the co-op gallery.

“After I retired from the Summit School District, I started working on my own art more, and I wanted a place to be able to show my work,” she said. “With this co-op gallery, it’s great for a local artist to be able to show my work and I wanted to also be able to still teach classes.”

As a gallery member, Bunchman has her own wall, which is currently filled with landscape paintings of Colorado and the Southwest. She also published a multicultural art book in 1994 with Stephanie Bissell Briggs called “Pictures and Poetry.” The book depicts the relationship between art and poetry, and the activities in the books and the biographical sketches of famous artists and poets are the basis for the many types of classes and workshops that Bunchman teaches.

After 30 years as an educator in Summit, one of the most gratifying experiences for her is seeing students in her class go on to become artists or graphic designers, or seeing them on town council.

“I have people that are ex-students that are working in the county that I taught 20 and 30 years ago,” she said. “They come up … they tell me stories about when they were in my classroom. They remember the art projects. I taught Colorado history, and they remember the Colorado history projects. So it’s always inspirational to have them tell stories about being in my class.”

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