Person of Shelburne – Terri Severance


“You have to let weeds happen,” Terri Severance explains of her oft-admired garden. And she knows the metaphor translates further. The Shelburne artist is a vessel for whimsy and magic. More officially, she wields the titles of soul coach, mother of two daughters, fairy and gnome camp founder, and Waldorf-inspired nursery school director. And sporting these many hats only energizes Severance. “I’m always busy, especially when the kids are playing. I always try to create a place for them to be with themselves and find their own voice.”

Severance grew up with seven brothers in Vermont and Cocoa Beach, Fla. Out of high school she set her sights on a study trip to Europe. The traditional path never lent itself to Severance, though. Instead she ended up on the coast of the Aegean Sea, painting for eight months. Following her study, Severance entertained a stint in Turkey planning events as the Recreation Coordinator. Camel rides and United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) bands excited troops in Diyarbakir but Severance, then 22, was ready to fly back to the haven of the Green Mountains. After three years, she married and settled in Richmond.

The mother of two daughters cheered to substitute teach at the Waldorf school. “When I found it, I felt like I’d come home; the school celebrates art, music, and all the other beautiful things in life,” she said. Then, 20 years ago, she began teaching nursery school out of her home in Shelburne. She now parcels her play-based, Waldorf-inspired pedagogy into days. Tuesdays, or Biscuit Days, for example, encourage the gaggle of two through five year olds to create in the kitchen. “I’m trying to create magic and a childhood for them. But I also want to teach them things they don’t usually learn when they’re away from home,” Severance explained.

After Severance ended her marriage, she rejoiced in her new home in Shelburne. Here, she claimed a 45-acre cove near her best friend. In 2000, she continued casting her spell with the innovation of fairy and gnome camps. Today, these camps continue with help from the Charlotte Congregational Church where Severance works on the education committee.

Five years later, Severance picked up Denise Linn’s “Soul Whispers II: Secret Alchemy of the Elements in Soul Coaching” at a Barnes & Noble. She didn’t even get to the last page. “Life presents those magical moments of listening. I was being led down a path,” she explained. She phoned Linn about a workshop she coached, but Severance had missed the deadline. Serendipitously, Linn decided to reschedule to accommodate her. Soon after, Severance received a check for the exact heft of the workshop price. “It’s all about listening and creating,” Severance said of the practice. Then, two years ago, Severance wed her current husband, Mark.

While Terri fosters her spiritual and personal life, her artistry recently snagged the limelight. Severance’s collages spruced the walls of Village Wine & Coffee in February. For those enrapt by the exhibit or simply yearning to create, Severance also hosts collage workshops. “You prepare the paper and then start cutting. Soon, it starts to create itself,” Severance explained. To view her artwork visit

Hobbies: whimsical gardening, creating art, cooking, and traveling

Favorite book: “The Power of Now” and “The Four Agreements”

Favorite food: vegetables – “I love to gnash!”

Bucket list: to walk the Pyrenees Mountains

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