Astoria Characters: The Woman Who Didn’t Know She Could Draw

Things haven’t turned out as Kate Crescenzo expected, but you know what, that’s OK because even though she’s all turned around, she’s right where she wants to be.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kate’s original career goal was to be an actress.

Kate, whose face is defined by perky brown ringlets and an effervescent smile, came to New York City at the end of 2019 to pursue an acting career, which she has been understudying for virtually all of the 26 years she has been on this planet.

She was finding her way, doing audition after audition after audition and teaching theater in an after-school program in Park Slope, when the pandemic upstaged her.

“I was really going for it,” she says.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kate moved to NYC right before the pandemic.

Kate was born and raised in Paeonian Springs, Virginia, a rural area some 45 minutes from D.C. that is, she says, as far away from the lights of Broadway, not to  mention any form of civilization, as you can get.

She was 12 when she performed in her first professional production, a community theater summer show. It sounds young until she adds that she made her acting debut in grade school.

“I was always performing,” she says. “I used to sing at my parents’ parties. And I always envisioned being on the stage or in a film or on TV.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She began drawing to fill up her time.

When she enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University, there was never any doubt that she would earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and put it to use.

Upon graduation, she went to Sacramento, where she starred in a one-woman comedy show.


Astoria Characters: The Woman Who Didn’t Know She could Paint #astoraicharacters #astoria #nyc #queens #artist #painter

♬ original sound – Nruhling

The move to New York City would be, she hoped, her big break.

And, in a way, that’s exactly what it was.

Although she didn’t get any acting roles in the six-month period pre-Covid she was trying out, she did meet the man who would become her fiancé.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kate’s subjects include Astoria businesses.

“We were working on a film,” she says. “He was doing sound, and I was doing a monologue.”

There was, she adds, a lot of flirting going on behind the scenes.

When things shut down, and Kate had a choice of moving back with her parents or moving in with the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, the choice was easy.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kate’s working on a master’s degree in social work.

Besides which, her apartment was really small.

“We watched a lot of TV and played a lot of games,” she says, adding that at one point, they were both jobless.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
A detail of one of Kate’s works.

Kate decided to put all her new-found free time to good use: She went back to school and is working on a master of social work degree at Fordham. (Her fiancé also is working on the same degree, but at Yeshiva University, and they will graduate in August.)

“During lockdown, I started to feel guilty about not helping people,” she says, adding that a two-week bout with Covid-19 this year only solidified her decision. “Being on the stage only helped me. I decided I didn’t want to stop acting, but I didn’t want an acting career.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
She starts with a sketch.

 There’s one other thing she started doing during lockdown: drawing.

“It made me feel good and kept my mind active,” she says. “I’ve never been trained in art, I just started drawing.”

She also watched a lot of YouTube videos to perfect her technique and began producing a painting a day, working at a small desk in her apartment’s flex room.

Her works – in gouache, watercolor, crayon, marker and Sharpie – start with sketches. The subject matter varies. In addition to botanicals and landscapes, Kate paints portraits of Astoria businesses.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kate’s planning her 2023 wedding.

“My paintings have a nostalgic feel,” she says, adding that it takes her about a day to complete each one. “Most of them are places that I have been.”

 Insisting that her art is merely a hobby, Kate says that she’s going to make more time for painting after she graduates and gets a full-time job.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Art, Kate says, is her hobby.

“I don’t like to do only one thing,” she says. “I like to do many things. And I’m hoping I can bring acting and art into my psychotherapy practice. Everything weaves together.”

But right now, there’s another project that’s taking up a lot of Kate’s time: her wedding. She’s going out with her mother to look for wedding dresses.

Copyright 2022 by Nancy A. Ruhling