By Barb Van Atta
Winners of the ninth annual Broome County Arts Council’s Heart of the Arts (HOTA) and Lifetime Achievement Awards were announced Wednesday (Oct. 17). Here’s a closer look at Julie Deemie and Ron Sall, the recipients of HOTA awards honoring recent significant contributions to the arts in Broome County:
A drafter and designer for local industries for more than 30 years, Julie Deemie currently is employed in the natural gas industry as a Civil CAD Mapper. She has been president since 2010 of the all-volunteer Johnson City Partners and was the driving force behind the now-annual Carousel Day at historic CFJ Park.
Her nominator captured the dual value of Deemie’s efforts. “In addition to introducing the village to a variety of crafters, artists and artisans, Julie recognized and acknowledged the value of the arts to the enhancement and cultural development of a community.”
“Carousel Day,” she said recently, “is the result of my personal vision and planning. I originally chose to showcase musical performers with a variety of styles. Two years ago I added the juried arts and crafts show to the event. I wanted to create an event that would foster community pride by providing a positive focus on our history, our people and their talents. Carousel Day is intended to be a day to set your worries aside and enjoy an enriching, fun time with your family.
“The arts play a vital role in the revitalization of Johnson City. The urban core is primarily seen as gray and industrial, yet what I see is an area filled with hidden talent and creativity. Bringing the arts alive will spark interest and create an environment that will make our community a special place to visit and spend quality time,” Deemie said of the mid-summer Carousel Day.
Despite her work as a designer, Deemie said she has little artistic ability “although I have knitted and crocheted along with other simple craft-making. I do have a keen ear for musical tone, a deep sense of visual creativity and obviously an appreciation of the arts.”
BAMirror asked Deemie how she reacted to the news that she was a HOTA honoree. “I could not believe that what I had done warranted such attention. Then I thought about how much time I have invested and the level of detail I have put into the Carousel Day event. I am thrilled that Carousel Day may garner some additional interest. I am truly appreciative and am further inspired by this award.”
Binghamton native Ron Sall has devoted his career to improving life in his hometown. As president of the Downtown Binghamton Business Association since 2004, he led the effort in 2006 to revive JulyFest, the annual festival of arts, music and culture that was once the centerpiece of Binghamton’s summer season.
Sall, president of Sall-Stearns Men’s Clothiers, was honored not only for his efforts but for his understanding of the way the arts are crucial to the revitalization of downtown.His nominator pointed out: “… in the last few years, in addition to featuring craft vendors and food vendors, (JulyFest) has become a festival that celebrates the arts: painting, sculpture, photography and jazz. … Under (Sall’s) leadership, the festival reached out to regional artists, offering them tents, access to electricity and security for a nominal fee. To local art galleries, he offered space for free.”
“We bring in 28 artists to our Artists in Action Area,” Sall said recently of JulyFest, “to expose the community that comes from all over to the many local artists we have and encourage attendees to go out into the downtown to see the lofts and galleries we have. Also we try to use as many local musicians as possible for our three-day jazz festival component.”
Local musician Scott Freeman suggested the jazz festival to Sall as an additional way to draw both locals and out-of-towners to the downtown festival. Wrote Sall’s nominator: “Ron went with the idea and, with a lot of hard work from Ron, Scott and Jim DiMasico, the Binghamton Jazz Festival became a part of JulyFest, featuring musicians known both locally and throughout the country and attracting thousands of fans.”
The nomination noted that, although the HOTA winner received help from artists, musicians, his fellow businessmen and the City of Binghamton, it was Sall’s “passion, organization, vision, drive and desire to promote downtown Binghamton that has created an event that showcases the arts and proves that they can contribute to the economic well-being of this community.”
Yet when asked about his reaction to winning the award, Sall expressed surprise “as there are so many deserving people in our community. … I don’t really think I do that much.”
Other arts-related volunteer positions Sall has held include chairman of the board of the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena and The Forum (2008-2011), past member of the boards of Southern Tier Celebrates! and Tri-Cities Opera and current board president for the Friends of the Forum.
Like Deemie, he denies any “closet artist” tendencies. “Don’t I wish!” Sall said recently. “I used to spend many nights doing furniture refinishing and building but lack any other talent.”