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Steve Ardo: The Story of a Resilient Buffalo Punk Artist

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Life hasn’t been easy for Buffalo artist Steve Ardo. Yet, no matter the challenge — and there’s been many — he’s never given up pursuing his dream. Ardo was recently kind enough to speak with 1120 Press Senior Writer Benjamin Joe who brings us this excellent piece below. To learn more about Steve Ardo, check out his website HERE. — Photo by Benjamin Joe.)

From a troubled home in Utica with an alcoholic father who died when he was young, to being forced into coming out as gay in high school thanks to a gossipy “best friend,” to enduring years of homelessness, artist Steve Ardo has lived a hard life.  

After leaving his mother’s home on the heels of a violent attack by his former-stepfather, Ardo came to Buffalo in 2007 to start a new life as student at University at Buffalo. For years, very few people realized that while other students were looking forward to spring break, Ardo’s only destination was the streets of the city, and sometimes, if he was lucky, the couch of a good friend.


The specter of homelessness isn’t always easy to see. Yes, there are the broken men and women of the city who might ask for change, or simply eye you glumly as they sip a panhandled coffee and cough from some unknown and uninsured disease. But for Ardo, who was homeless for seven years, he went through lengths to hide his situation.


“I was ashamed of my homelessness. I didn’t tell anyone. None of my teachers knew,” Ardo recalled as he spoke about his journey to becoming an artist. “I had so many talented friends… Just seeing the talent around me, I said, ‘I wish I could do that.’ (But) the reason I couldn’t focus was because I had so much on my plate.”


Yet, as Ardo looks to the future, he does not ignore his past. In an interview with 1120 Press, he chatted amiably about art and literature, sipping a beverage inside a Buffalo coffee shop that he said he could make last for four hours or more as he talked of his life as a homeless, gay artist and the cast of characters — good and bad — who have entered and passed through his life.


There were former friends and dead relatives. Abused women, rich tourists, retaliatory employers, and the list goes on. But some people stayed true — including Buffalo punk band On the Cinder, with whom he lived with for a few months and served as his introduction into the world of punk rock.


“When I started working in the punk scene, that’s how I realized this is what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.


Ardo described the month of April in 2014 when he was asked to design a flyer for a

punk rock show. Drawing from his education at UB, he created “Hobes,” a hobo carrying a six-pack to the next show. Other drawings followed as he met more and more bands and soon, Ardo’s “monsters” adorned posters, flyers and even the cover of a local alt-weekly in 2015.


These days, Ardo — who struggled with “no self-esteem” which eventually led him to methamphetamine — is stable and relatively happy. And while he is on temporary aid and using SNAP benefits to pay his meals, he’s also raising funds to further his artistic career by getting into a graduate program to earn his MFA.


So far, he’s raised $1,700. A GoFundMe has been set up to help ARDO with expenses, to which you can donate HERE.


“My classmates went on to land positions with agencies or in-house design departments while I had to deal with surviving day-to-day without even making ends meet,” Ardo wrote on his website.


But, he added, “I don’t see my life as a series of struggles, but rather as building blocks to help me grow stronger.”


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