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Giving College Pt. children space to play, get creative

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In preparation for the Fourth of July, a replica of the Statue of Liberty stands in front of the home on 25th Avenue that she shares with her husband Bobby Ruth.

It replaces the soldier that was on display for Memorial Day, the Nativity scene at Christmas, the pilgrims for Thanksgiving and the haunted display of ghosts, mummies and monsters on Halloween.

"We don't have a child, but we are blessed with children and children come by every day," Nora Ruth said, just hours before several neighborhood kids stopped by to play for the afternoon.

Nora Ruth, a native of Colombia who has lived in the United States for 20 years, started doing pastels about 20 years ago and then graduated to painting acrylics and most recently to creating multimedia holiday displays.

Her career in art began years ago, when she started leaving notes written and drawn in pastels for her husband on her way out to the gym.

"My husband used to say, you should do more," she said.

Around their home are paintings, sketches and acrylic depictions of classic art and some of Nora Ruth's originals.

Some of her art is even displayed in their front window, but it was not until she started creating the holiday displays that she received so much attention.

The decorations, some of which are stored in their basement, take weeks to make. Children from the neighborhood help out in the afternoons, and Nora Ruth works on them in her spare time.

"Kids call her 'Aunt Nora,'" Bobby Ruth said. "It's all for the kids.

"They all help Nora paint. Everything is made from scratch," he said.

The couple began putting out her artwork when they lived at 125th Street in College Point. They were recommended as tenants to a landlord on 25th Avenue, where they live now.

In Nora Ruth's basement studio, a stuffed deer head pokes out of a bowling ball bag, a mummy rests in the corner and a wicked, bloody witch stares down from the ceiling.

Decorations from St. Patrick's Day and Easter lie underneath new projects for the upcoming holidays.

But the art is secondary to the Ruths' real mission of creating a safe haven for neighborhood children.

"I love the children because they're so innocent," she said. "I can protect the little ones."

The kids come by promptly at 3:15 p.m. after school is over. On Friday the children stopped by after their last day of school to show the Ruths their report cards.

"Children come to me sometimes with no father," she said. "Or they need attention. They're looking for somebody to talk to."

On Easter, the Ruths host an egg hunt in their backyard and have children and parents over to celebrate the holiday.

It seems as if the neighborhood is as involved in the art displays as the Ruths are.

During the Thanksgiving season in the fall, some of the pieces were stolen from the Ruth's front yard.

"The kids put up a sign, 'Whoever stole the decorations, please return them because we worked so hard,'" Bobby Ruth said.

The perpetrator later returned the artwork with an apologetic note.

When asked why they continue to put out her art in light of these obstacles, Nora Ruth said it was worth it for "the peace of mind."

"We're happy."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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