COLRAIN, MASSACHUSETTS — I’ve been a touring singer/songwriter since 1992 and have offered The Soulful Landscape workshops and keynote concerts since 2001 (see www.ericawheeler.com). The focus of my work is to foster the emotional connection between people and place, inspiring them to act on behalf of places they care about. This is an exciting time for me as I have been able to bring together my interest and education in environmental work with my career as an artist to try and make a difference in the world.
The Soulful Landscape is based on the premise that everyone has stories of place and belonging waiting to be remembered and revealed. During the workshops, I start with a presentation of place-based songs, stories, and visual arts to empower participants to express their experiences and observations from their own unique viewpoints. We do some writing prompts where people uncover what’s going on in their lives, and then they write about a place that has a lot of meaning for them. I ask them to see if they can find out how these two writings interrelate. Then I ask a few brave souls to share what they’ve written. As an attempt to mirror back to them the power I feel in their words I usually create a “song on the spot,” pulling lines from their actual writing. I do this because when I sing their words back to them, they seem to be heard and experienced on a whole new level. I consider this healing work. We give our memories form, turning them into songs, stories, poems, and essays. We remember who we are by remembering the places that have power and meaning in our lives.
My latest CD, Good Summer Rain, was sponsored in part by The Trust for Public Land. Each song is about the relationship between people and place from different angles and perspectives. During my concerts, my songs and stories evoke a sense of place in the listener. My hands-on workshops give them an opportunity to access and articulate their own stories of place and belonging. My keynote presentations help people reconnect with themselves and their passion for acting on behalf of the land. If we hope to inspire a broad base of public support for a sustainable future, we can reach some people with facts and figures, we can appeal to their minds and sense of reason. Fear can motivate, but so can love. The arts can reach people not by telling them what to think or do or how to change, but by appealing to the heart and letting them draw their own conclusions.