As millions are fleeing war, terror and persecution, 34 artists and a film crew have engaged in a mission to inspire understanding, compassion and support.  This mission, called the Columbus Crossing Borders Project, is currently touring the United States as an art exhibit and the documentary film, "Breathe Free".  


Through partnership with Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) the audience takes an intimate look into the arduous journeys of refugees who have been willing to share their personal stories on film.  Taking inspiration from these stories, the 34 artists were asked to work as a cooperative community, being challenged to 'cross the borders' into each other's paintings.  The result is a visual collage served up as a tribute to the resilience, strength and spirit of those who have survived the hardship of forced migration. 

Laurie VanBalen   | Project Director / Producer

Laurie VanBalen is the director of The Columbus Crossing Borders Project and the producer of the "Breathe Free" documentary film.  Working as a visual artist, her career spans 30 years of exhibits, commissions and community organizing for the arts.  She is the founder and director of Art Soup Studio, teaching art through schools, community centers and weekly studio classes.


Along with her Columbus Crossing Borders co-director Tom VanBalen, Laurie takes the Columbus Crossing Borders Project into classrooms, using the creative arts to engage with students about the many ways we can all make positive contributions to our communities -- and how, by taking meaningful actions, we can establish equality, fairness and respect for everyone.



Tom VanBalen   | Co-Director