It wasn’t long ago that Gulfport resident and artist Shara Bunis was working in the corporate world, managing grant money for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
A seasoned photographer and watercolor artist, Bunis made a full career 180° and is this year’s recipient of the Gulfport Merchant Chamber’s Rise and Shine Emerging Artist Grant.
“I was actually really surprised, and a little bit panicked at first,” Bunis said. “It’s not really about the money; it’s about how this helps you grow.”
The initial grant rings in at $500, and equates to lucrative artist resources such as a spot in the juried Gulfport Fine Arts Festival, five booth spots in the Gulfport First Friday Art Walk and a local mentorship program with Brenda McMahon.
The subjects in her work are tangible, often life-like – a butterfly or a shipwrecked boat from Hurricane Eta – but painted through the rainy gaze of watercolor.
“I tend to be a literal person; I see the world in detail,” Bunis, who has a knack for macro photography, said. “When I started painting, I wanted to be a loose, flowy, watercolor person. Turns out, my style is more about the details.”
The Albany native uses her close-up style to highlight forgotten minutiae like the hairs on an insect’s legs.
Bunis first visited the Gulfport area in 2005 for a business trip, and it took her over a decade to set roots in town. After officially moving from Pennsylvania in 2015, she’s let the flavor of the city take her work to new places.
“I never intended to sell my work,” the artist said. “It all happened very organically.”
Bunis dove in head first when local artist Susan Wiley “took her under her wing,” and gave her a few tips, but always with watercolors, which Bunis describes as the only medium she knows.
“She saw I had talent and a passion,” Bunis said. “I’m still a little amazed by that.”
What’s next for the grant winner? It depends.
“If something resonates with me, I paint it,” Bunis said. “It’s hard for me to plan…I’m known to get up at 8 p.m. and start painting something, anything. I stick to…what feels good.”
See Gulfport’s emerging artist on display at 5317 Beach House, 5317 Gulfport Blvd.