Joanne Orce, kneeling, and Ann Feldman, another Insight artist, planting trees during ReTree along the Yampa River.

This blog post is a collaboration between Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Creative Climate Action, a Substack newsletter by Jill Bergman. Click here to subscribe to Creative Climate Action.

This week, I’m thrilled to share the work of an artist friend of mine, Joanne Orce, and also a helpful tool for finding rewarding personal climate actions.

Joanne is an artist in Steamboat Springs who loves to paint wildlife and the iconic places around this small town and big ski area in Northwest Colorado. She attended Pratt Institute in Manhattan for illustration but soon discovered a love for oil painting. Joanne designed the 2023 Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival poster and was voted Best of the ‘Boat Artist 2023. She is a mom to three children and also an athletic coach.

For its second year, Joanne is again participating in the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council (YVSC) event, Insight: Art for Climate Action. Insight is a fundraiser that aims to raise awareness and support for climate action through the power of art. And, disclaimer, I’m now working part time for YVSC as a Creative Climate Communications Associate. I have so much enthusiasm for the subject, I needed an outlet, so thanks for reading!

Greater Sage-Grouse, oil on Belgian linen by Joanne Orce.

Joanne was inspired to create a painting for Insight featuring the greater sage-grouse and highlighting their sagebrush habitat. A couple of years ago she accompanied her friend to several leks to count grouse to estimate the population. Leks are display grounds where male greater sage-grouse strut and show off in hopes of attracting a mate. The males fan out their tail feathers and inflate and deflate the air sacs on their chest making a popping sound.

To prepare for this painting, Joanne spent some time in Northwest Colorado amongst the sagebrush, studying and sketching the plant and its immediate environment including stones, fossils, cactus, and bones. According to her artist statement, “My Greater Sage Grouse painting emerged from these experiences and a longing to bring attention to the importance of sagebrush in restoring a resilient landscape. Respecting and restoring sagebrush meadow ecosystems will hopefully mean the future survival of these beautiful and iconic birds.”

The landscape north of Maybell, Colorado while visiting greater sage-grouse leks to help with population counts. Photo by Joanne Orce.

Sage-grouse depend on large expanses of sagebrush habitat which have been reduced by more than half since 1965. These areas are impacted by oil and gas infrastructure, conversion to agriculture, and other human development. Invasive plant species, and wildfires made more intense by climate change are also challenges. Check out this lovely slideshow, The Golden Triangle, by Evan Barrientos of the Audubon Rockies to learn more about the sagebrush landscape.

Are you inspired by something — a landscape, an iconic species, or driven by a general concern and not too sure how to make a difference? Well, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, author, and environmental policy expert, has created a great Venn diagram to help you brainstorm and gain some direction. 

As an example, I asked Joanne to fill out the diagram and here are her responses:

What brings you joy?
• Painting and drawing.
• Hiking, exploring and observing nature.
• The happiness of my kids.

What are you good at?
• Making art — drawing and painting.
• Physical tasks and journeys.
• Coaching/instructing.

What work needs doing?
• Protection and restoration of ecosystems.
• Local climate solutions.

Next, think about the areas where the circles overlap and brainstorms actions:
• A series of paintings about the sagebrush ecosystem and its interdependent species.
• Environmental reforestation or restoration work with my kids.
• Work with a local organization to teach volunteers to do restoration work.
• Observe, record, or draw in a way that educates about environmental changes.

Joanne is already well on her way in these personalized climate actions by sharing her interest in sage-grouse and their habitat, donating her painting to Insight, and also planting trees with YVSC’s ReTree event last fall.

To see the artwork from Insight: Art for Climate Action, head to the show opening at Steamboat Creates Friday, June 7, attend the auction June 29 or visit for more information.

Jill Bergman | 20 May 2024