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These creative people have helped shape Treasure Valley culture

“Rosalie Sorrels’ voice is unmistakable,” writes Statesman arts reporter Dana Oland. “It vacillates between raw and revealing, silky smooth and heartbreaking. Her songs tell tales of love, loneliness and loss, social injustice, political strife and poverty.”
“Rosalie Sorrels’ voice is unmistakable,” writes Statesman arts reporter Dana Oland. “It vacillates between raw and revealing, silky smooth and heartbreaking. Her songs tell tales of love, loneliness and loss, social injustice, political strife and poverty.” Statesman file

Everywhere, entrepreneurs are prized and builders appreciated. However, what makes a place unique is something more: how it honors its history, protects its environment and enriches its culture.

When considering who shaped the Treasure Valley, some guy named Simplot has been pretty important, judging from two brilliant new buildings and a new city park. Somewhere under the raging Boise River we’re told there’s still something called The Greenbelt, which a bunch of visionaries made happen. They’re certainly on the list, along with those who saved the Foothills.

But I’m nominating two women who never owned much more than a handmade cabin up Grimes Creek. Let folksinger Rosalie Sorrels and her mom, writer-championing Nancy Stringfellow, stand for all the artists who have painted, photographed, taught, sung and written out of this valley.

Between the redwood forest and the Gulf Stream waters and all over this world, Rosalie sang her songs and told stories for over 50 years, collaborating with the great musical talents of the era while using Idaho as home base.

Today, how about singer/horn player Curtis Stigers? He makes money elsewhere, then spends himself for numerous good causes back home. Steigers’ musical extravaganza at Christmas raises a bunch of money for the Interfaith Sanctuary for the homeless. Put him on the list.

New buildings bring pride, conventions and tourists, but it is Treefort that says Boise is young and fun as well as high-end. How about BAM, BCT, Boise Zoo, Shakespeare and Outlaw Field? This year, valley artists will wrap another 37 unique city utility boxes with art. What city our size does that?

For 20 years Stringfellow ran an independent bookstore on Main Street and touted writers, as Rediscovered Books does today. I’m guessing she’d be over the moon knowing 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winner for fiction, Anthony Doerr, now lives here and that the 2016 and 2014 Pulitzer-winners (Colin Whitehead and Katherine Boo) will speak here for The Cabin next season. Put Doerr on the list.

An influential 2002 book by Richard Florida, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” told us skilled, educated young people want to live and work in the most diverse, creative places, thereby launching a virtuous circle of economic development. It’s proving true in the Treasure Valley. Keep it up.

Jerry Brady is a member of Compassionate Boise. jbrady2389@gmail.com. This column appears in the May 17-June 20, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on people who have shaped the Treasure Valley. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).

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