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Refuge’s artist in residence program to feature Pierce

By REFUGE / DDWS - | Nov 5, 2020


The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge began its artist in residence program in 2019 as part of its 75th Anniversary Celebration, with hopes to continue it each year. Whereas COVID got in the way of those plans, the refuge, with support from the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, is moving forward with hosting Fort Myers artist Rachel Pierce for a 2021 program.

Most well-recognized from her role as former NBC2 morning anchor for five years, Pierce recently retired from TV journalism to devote more time to her passion for art and her family.

A lifelong artist, Pierce studied art in college, but eventually segued into broadcast journalism. She moved to Fort Myers in 2015 and became involved in community affairs as an emcee for events and celebrity artist. The latter once more ignited her love for creating her brand of sea-inspired oil and acrylic paintings. She sells her paintings and line of jewelry throughout Southwest Florida, including the new Nature Store2 once it opens on Sanibel in November.

As the “Ding” artist in residence, Pierce will appear regularly at the refuge next year to do pop-up plein-air painting along Wildlife Drive; teach art to children and adults on-site; live-stream; lead opportunities to paint a canvas with the artist; visit youth facilities to help create art; and end 2021 with an exhibition of her refuge-inspired and other wildlife art from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10.

Her first appearance will be on Dec. 1 for the 75th Anniversary Celebration/“Ding” Darling Day. She will demonstrate her style of nature art outdoors on Wildlife Drive with social distancing.

“I love all things Ding,” Pierce, who in March emceed “Project Refuge: A Couture Fashion Show Using Trash” for the refuge’s anniversary, said. “I am always in awe of the wildlife, especially the birds during my visits. I often find my inspiration while there. How fitting and what an exceptional honor to be the artist in residence at the place where I source so many subjects for my artwork. I’m absolutely thrilled to connect to nature, art enthusiasts, ‘Ding’ supporters, and ‘Ding’ visitors over the next year. I look forward to sharing with everyone my love for our beautiful Southwest Florida environment and creating artwork reflecting it.”

“Our refuge was created by conservation artist Jay Norwood ‘Ding’ Darling in 1945, so our artist in residence program honors that history and tradition,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland said. “Darling created the Federal Duck Stamp program and designed the first duck stamp and the refuge system’s Blue Goose logo. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice for his political cartoons, which were syndicated across the country throughout the 1920s and five decades.”

For more information, visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/artist-in-residence.