Meet Your Neighbor: Linda Rufo

I’ve been creating art ever since I was a child.  I spent years under my mother’s piano sketching my father and reading music books. Growing up in my country, art wasn’t considered a necessity, so when it came time for college, my mother pushed me to become a doctor. But, I followed my dreams and earned a degree in Fine Arts from the top university in the Philippines.

When I moved to New York in 1991, I made a name for myself as a freelance artist. One job led to the next, and before I knew it, I was painting at Rockefeller Center.  When I’d finish one job, there’d be someone standing outside waiting to hire me for the next. But then 9/11 changed everything. My clients went back to homes in other cities. The doors were closed and no one was hiring. But I was determined and found new work. As a single mom, I had no choice.

I worked four jobs a day at one point. I’d paint all day and night, go home to sleep and feed my children, then go back to work.  We were making it, when Hurricane Sandy hit and destroyed everything we owned. I came home to find paintings floating in the living room. For three weeks, I lived in a bedroom with no heat or electricity, salvaging what I could. I slept on the floor with just a jacket to cover me, praying to God, "What do I do?"

It was then a group of friends came to me with an idea about starting a community art group. It was the project I needed to guide me away from my loss.  I said, let’s do something for people who can’t afford art in their lives. Now we are ArtBeat 5, and we lead art initiatives all over Queens. In 2015, as part of our Art Therapy classes at the Rego Park Senior Center, we transformed the entire dining hall, from floor to ceiling, with hand-painted scenes of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. We worked for 10 hours a day for 23 days straight. 

You cannot be a beautiful artist if you don’t do something for the community.  I don’t need to be popular; I have big success in my heart.


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