By Brian Johnson
Former NBC-2 News Anchor Rachel Pierce is the Artist in Residence at the refuge through “Ding” Darling Days in October, 2021.
Pierce will be a regular presence on Wildlife Drive as she paints the natural scenery of the refuge with its abundant tropical birds, reptiles and mammals.
Visitors to the refuge will have a chance to meet her and watch her paint. She will also participate in educational outreach in the Southwest Florida community.
“The refuge is unbelievable,” said Pierce. “I was so blown away the first time I went through Wildlife Drive and saw the rosette spoonbills and white pelicans. It is a gem of a place.”
“Rachel is so talented and makes it look so easy,” said Toni Westland, Supervisory Refuge Ranger. “I’ve seen her paint live on Facebook, and it’s very soothing. She’s one of those people who exudes positivity with her smile.”
Pierce’s appointment to the Artist in Residence position coincides with the 75th Anniversary of the refuge. “Ding” Darling, the driving force in the establishment of the refuge, was a wildlife artist and nationally-known syndicated cartoonist.
Pierce, originally from Wisconsin, is a fitting choice to continue Darling’s legacy. Like “Ding,” she has a love of animals and has promoted conservation throughout her high-profile career in the media industry. With her caliber of artistic talent, she too is able to reach a wide audience with her wildlife and nature portraits.
“I remember the day she was out on the Drive shooting a video,” said Westland. “She was not with a television crew, she was shooting it with her phone like any other visitor who comes to the refuge and then posts it on social media. It was so cool to see the footage later on the NBC broadcast. Rachel has been so supportive of the refuge and is great to work with.”
Pierce is involved in the island community at organizations such as CROW, BIG ARTS, and the Captiva Civic Association. Her art is displayed and for sale at Sunshine Seafood Cafe on Captiva.
She and her husband, Matthew, moved to Southwest Florida seven years ago. They have four young children — Lydia, Piper, Rory and Daphne.
Her career in the news industry started in Eau Claire, Wisconsin as anchor for WQOW. She met Matthew while working for the BBC in Washington, D.C.
Pierce officially retired NBC-2 on June 26, 2020 to become a full-time artist and full-time mom. Her wake-up time is now 6:15 am instead of 2:15 am.
“I never really watched television with the kids at night because of the pressure to get in bed by 8pm,” she said. “Now we huddle together on the couch and watch streaming series. We do crafts, bike rides and pool time. They love it and I love it.” For the first time she was able to be with them on the first day of the school year.
Pierce has been painting a lot on the weekends the past couple of years, and a growing list of customers gave her the confidence to make art a full-time profession. With her effervescent personality and celebrity status, she has attracted demand from area residents who enjoy her personal touch.
The transition has revealed her business talent, too. She has rolled out an impressive marketing platform and even launched a line of jewelry with her artwork engraved on the various pieces.
See Rachel at “Ding” Darling and online at ByRachelPierce.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.