Culture // 5 min Read

Local Character: Ruth Ann Terry

Written by Allison Lane; Photography by Ruta Smith

Oct 4, 2021

At Palmetto Bluff, we put faith in good people, and we take pride in delighting everyone who explores this place. We believe the inspiration to create great places and great life experiences originates from the people on our team. Local Character introduces you to a member of the Palmetto Bluff team.

For every home designed, reviewed, and built at Palmetto Bluff, Design Review Board Administrator Ruth Ann Terry is working behind the scenes to make it all happen, managing the guidelines that direct all construction. A self-proclaimed introvert with a passion for the arts, Ruth Ann doesn’t fit neatly into a box—nor would she want to.

Over the years, Ruth Ann has found her niche in telling other artists’ stories, so much so that she ran a successful art gallery in the Upstate of South Carolina for five years before moving to the Lowcountry. When asked how art has affected her life, Ruth Ann put it simply: “It kind of is my life. It’s my release; it’s the way I get away from the laptop and how I clear my mind.”

This passion for art is evident within her own home, where the walls themselves and the art that hangs on them have come to be physical expressions of how she is feeling. On any given day, you can ask Ruth Ann, “What is your favorite piece?” And she will tell you that it depends—it depends on the day, and it depends on where it is. On the day of our interview, her current favorite was a colorful painting hanging in her kitchen titled Say What You Really Mean. In it, the letters Y-E-S surround a mass of oranges, blues, and pinks, and in the very center, on the only area of black paint, it says, “No.”

Minimalist artist Frank Stella famously said, “What you see is what you see.” And with Ruth Ann, there is so much to see.

Local Character Ruth Ann photoby Ruta Smith 27 story

Q: What goes through your mind as you drive into Palmetto Bluff?
A: I’m organizing the day and personal errands and deciding who needs to be first in line and what needs to happen next.

Q: What about on your way home?
A: I’m still putting things in boxes, recapping what was accomplished, and searching for what might have been overlooked. I manage that until I get to Highway 46, and then I try to leave it at the gate and move on. A lot of times, it’s not easy, so I lean on music to make the voices stop.

Q: Top five songs on your playlist?
A: How about top artists: Leonard Cohen and Andrea Bocelli, especially Bocelli’s recent release of Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Diana Krall, Stevie Nicks, and all things Clapton.

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
A: My sons. We grew up together, and they’ve grown to be incredible people, friends, husbands, and fathers. With four granddaughters, I find it a pleasure to influence them, to travel with them, and to push them past their comfort zones and watch them fly.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?
A: I could tell you that I’m loyal and dependable because that is very true or that I always follow through with what I say I’m going to do, but I think the most marked characteristic is that I’m just comfortable being me. I don’t have anything else to prove, and I want to do the best I can every day. There’s certainly room to grow, and I still have a lot to learn, but I am comfortable in my own skin.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: My passion is all things art—all parts of it—and I have a soapbox for public art. I believe it should be the core of our education system, and I believe municipalities have a responsibility to provide public art to people. Not everybody can go to a museum, but they can walk down a street and enjoy a mural, a pretty landscape, or a sculpture.

Q: What is the last book you read?
A: I’m actually reading three: Unexampled Courage by District Judge Richard Gergel, John Lescroart’s The Mercy Rule, and Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. I’m drawn to the last book because of the illustrations.

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be? And how would you use it in your job?
A: I’d love to have the power to heal. Wouldn’t that be fun? The opportunities are endless—great and small. Maybe I would have a special wand for people who have bad attitudes, and I would just heal their attitudes.

Q: When you’re not at Palmetto Bluff, what are you doing?
A: Enjoying my home, traveling to family and friends, a little beach time. Creating something—food, art, home projects. My home is in constant makeover mode.

Q: What words or phrases do you use the most?
A: Thank you so much.

Q: What makes you laugh?
A: Myself, I am just a mess sometimes. I laugh at myself every day—some days, multiple times.

Q: What is your favorite spot at the Bluff?
A: Anywhere along the river and the top of the Moreland Treehouse.

Q: Best Palmetto Bluff moment?
A: Time spent with the Conservancy. I learn from Jay, Mary, Justin, and the staff every time, and I appreciate that so much. I absolutely agree with Jay 100 percent; it really does all begin with the land.

Q: What has been your pandemic silver lining?
A: Well, I’m a big ol’ introvert, so I am just as happy as can be in my little square.

Q: What is one thing you want people to know about DRB?
A: We have an awesome Design Review Board. They care, they get it, and they really do understand. They have been working together for over 10 years shaping Palmetto Bluff, and they work closely with and depend on input from the Conservancy and members of the development team.

Read the original story in the Fall / Winter 2021 edition of the bluff.