Educator. Speaker. Songwriter. Sense of Place Advocate.
Erica Wheeler is a sense of place consultant and visitor experience specialist. Her services include professional development training, keynotes and public programs.
Through her Soulful Stewardship Method she has helped thousands of individuals find their sense-of-place stories, and trained staff at hundreds of natural, cultural and historic sites, including dozens of National Parks.
Her approach offers a powerful framework that can be used in both one's personal and professional work.
The Soulful Stewardship Method
Her Soulful Stewardship Method, which originally came out of her songwriting process, combined with her passion for learning about nature, history and place, is now a powerful framework for discovering stories that can be used in ones personal or professional work.
It all started when Erica was an aspiring wildlife biologist (Hampshire College, Amherst, MA). The bulk of her work was around the theme of how people effect places and how places effect us. She went on to become a touring songwriter with songs deeply rooted in the land and a sense of place.
During her treks across the country as an award-winning songwriter, she witnessed again and again the rapidly changing American landscape, and wanted to do more than just entertain. She wanted to use her voice to inspire more people to care about these treasured places. Her 2008 release "Good Summer Rain" was sponsored in part by the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization, and gave her a chance to bring her life and her work full circle.
Ultimately, she discovered a powerful process that could be used by people with any level of experience, to discover and claim their own sense-of-place stories and connections. Now, almost a decade later, Erica is known across the country for her inspiring keynotes, and in-depth programs about story, stewardship and sense-of-place.
She has used her method to train the staff sites across the country, including dozens of National Parks. From her career as a songwriter to her work today combining music, speaking and training, Erica continues to combine her passions for nature, history and place, with the creative arts.
Raised in Chevy Chase, Maryland Erica was exposed to traditional folk and bluegrass music through family escapades to the surrounding regions of rural Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
In college, when she began writing songs in earnest, Erica was inspired by contemporary singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter Erica was also deeply inspired then by writers such as Aldo Leopold and Annie Dillard, and later Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams and the poet Mary Oliver.
Erica's music career began in Northampton, MA, an area known as "home" to a host of touring songwriters, and a hotbed for the New England revival of the acoustic music scene. At a local club of national fame, (The Iron Horse Music Hall,) Erica quickly developed from an opening act into a headliner. She honed her skills there, watching artists like Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Suzanne Vega in the 170-seat room. Erica was also a frequent participant in the Northampton Songwriter Group, which then included fellow songwriters Dar Williams, Cliff Eberhardt, Annie Gallup, Jim Henry and more.
In 2001 she offered her first "Soulful Sense of Place" workshop, for the Spring Earth Festival at the Murie Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The site was home to Mardy Murie, who is often referred to the as the mother of conservation. It was there she back to bring her work full circle.
After a decade of touring on the 90's, and in response to witnessing the growing sprawl that was changing many of her favorite places, she decided to more actively offer work that helped to connect people and place. In 2008 she release a CD in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization.
Over the last decade, her message and mission has become a keynote program and a training that helps people find their personal connections to places, inspiring the care and stewardship needed to take care of places for today, and the future.
Her extensive experience and expertise includes keynotes at national events such as the National Association of State Park Directors and training for the National Park Service, from Acadia National Park to the Washington Monument. Today she is an established sense-of-place leader, known for her uniquely powerful programs that inspire caring and stewardship
Erica lives with her spouse in the tiny Massachusetts hilltown of Colrain, in a 100-year-old little house beside a rushing brook, surrounded by her neighbor's 750-acre dairy and maple sugar farm.