Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘My life recipe includes family, art, travel and community.’

Beth Giacummo, Farmingdale

“I was born in Port Jefferson and raised in Patchogue. My parents and grandmothers encouraged my artistic pursuits from a young age. Growing up in a family of artists, I was surrounded by creativity from a young age. My parents, sister and grandmothers all played a role in nurturing my artistic abilities. My mother encouraged me to think outside the box, while my father introduced me to various art resources. Since his passing, I have honored his memory by achieving the goals he set for me.

My passion for helping the community is deeply rooted and reflects in my art practice.

“My grandmothers’ homes were filled with inspiration, from Grandma Suzie’s captivating murals to Grandma Ida’s organized sewing room. My family’s unwavering support has shaped my passion for art and creativity. My art journey began at the Academy of St. Joseph, where I was encouraged to explore various art forms and subjects. A trip to Italy in the eighth grade sparked my passion for glasswork, motivating me to travel and master the craft. After visiting Cooper Union and the School of Visual Arts, I felt a strong connection to SVA and applied for an interview with my portfolio. The admissions person was interested in my darkest piece from my cancer drawings, and we had a deep conversation about my work. But it was when I visited the MOMA, I was inspired by an exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s installations, leading me to realize that I wanted to create installations.

“Attending Pratt, I studied Scandinavian glass design in Denmark. After college, I became involved in the local arts community in Patchogue, where I helped found the Patchogue Arts Council. I also started organizing artist residencies, inspired by my own experience in Austria. This led to participating in residencies in Romania, Denmark, Poland and Italy. In 2009, PAC became a nonprofit organization, leading to opportunities like organizing the Patchogue Arts Biennial and the Walking Arts Tour for five years. Volunteering with PAC introduced me to valuable skills and amazing people, including our PAC mom, Kelleen Guyer. My work with PAC eventually led me to the Islip Art Museum, where I served as exhibition and curatorial director.

“After seven years, I returned to PAC as their executive director thanks to a grant they received. My journey with PAC and the Islip Art Museum has been full circle, allowing me to bring together everything I’ve learned and to support a diverse range of contemporary artists. My passion for helping the community is deeply rooted and reflects in my art practice. Working with PAC has been a rewarding experience, from helping local artists to bringing in national and international talent. One of the aspects of my work that brings me great joy is meeting young artists who are passionate about contributing to their community and advocating for fellow artists.

“Having achieved several of my own goals early in my career, I feel privileged to give back and create opportunities for other artists. It is incredibly fulfilling to nurture talent and foster connections within the artistic community. My life recipe includes family, art, travel and community. I am committed to showcasing my work locally and have begun the process of furthering my education with a PhD to explore the connection between art practice and creative placemaking. Patchogue serves as a model for this research. Now that I’ve put this goal out into the world, I am determined to make it a reality.”

Interviewed by Starr Fuentes

‘My grandmother has always been my greatest inspiration.’

Kelly Zhou, Farmingdale

“I grew up in a village located in Fujian, a coastal province of China renowned for its unique oolong and jasmine teas. I was raised by my grandmother. My grandmother has always been my greatest inspiration. She was an avid supporter of education and would always prepare delicious desserts and tea for us to enjoy.

“My childhood was full of sweet moments spent with loved ones, especially with my grandmother’s cooking. As I learned about tea from her, I dreamed of opening a tea shop in her honor.

“As I grew older, my passion for tea only grew stronger. I began to experiment with different blends and flavors and spent countless hours researching the history and culture of tea.

“I moved to the United States after completing my education. I decided to pursue my dream of opening a tea shop. I wanted to create a space where people could come together and enjoy the beauty and complexity of tea.

My childhood was full of sweet moments spent with loved ones.

“With the restaurant business and technology knowledge I gained over the years, I opened my first Yaaas Tea location in Farmingdale. In just a few short months of launching, my tea shop has become a beloved community gathering place, where people come to connect, and enjoy all kinds of traditional teas, coffees and cakes. I have since introduced four additional Yaaas Tea locations across the island, with several more eagerly anticipated to launch this year.

“Just like my grandmother did for me when I was younger, I put the same level of care and dedication into creating the teas that Yaaas Tea offers.

“As a woman who has moved to America to chase her dreams, I completely understand the desire to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

“Remember to stay true to yourself. It’s important to remember where you came from and what makes you unique. Embrace your heritage, incorporate it into your daily life through food, music or traditions. Always remember that with hard work and passion, anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”

Interviewed by Starr Fuentes