South Students Visit Crossing Borders

Trevor Summers, Reporter

On Oct. 2, several classes from Westerville South visited the Crossing Borders exhibit at The Point, at Otterbein. The Crossing Borders exhibit is an art display relating to the, often, dangerous journey many refugees here in Central Ohio, and worldwide, have had to take. There were 34 total art pieces on display, all relating to refugees.

The art display is part of a bigger project called the Columbus Crossing Borders Project, a project about reaching out to refugees through the art exhibit,  as well as the documentary Breathe.

In the documentary, several people detail their experience as a refugee, such as Roudabeh Izadi. Izadi had to flee Iran with her parents at age seven due to political persecution. Izadi refers to the Iranian government in the documentary, stating, “If you oppose them, they don’t just come for you. They come for everyone that you love. They don’t want to just stop you; they want to exterminate you, and your family, and your bloodlines.”

The project was started by artist Laurie VanBalen. VanBalen was inspired to begin the project after hearing about how bad the refugee situation is worldwide. “I can’t believe we live in a world with over 65 million refugees,” VanBalen said. She wanted to draw more attention to the refugee situation. “There’s so much going on in the world, we almost become desensitized.”

VanBalen then invited 33 other artists to her home, where the art collection came about. What makes the exhibit particularly unique, is that the elements from each individual art piece spills into the next. In fact, the artists worked on each others paintings, which is rather unusual.

Paul Hamilton, a painter from Columbus, Ohio, was quite surprised about the decision to have artists painting on each others pieces. “I’ve painted my whole life, basically, and I’ve never had anyone paint on a painting of mine,” Hamilton stated in the Breathe documentary.

The exhibit was available to the public Sept. 30, and was initially open for student visits from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3, but was extended to Oct. 4. “We actually had to add another day to accommodate the interest,” director of the Westerville Education Foundation, Colleen Moidu, said.

According to Moidu, 1,200 people attended the community culture day Sept. 30, and 1,600 students showed up during the four following days. Moidu said, “When we started talking about the project here, we had no idea what kind of response we would get. The response from the community  has far surpassed our expectations.”

The exhibit has been well received by South students as well. Senior Fernando Ramirez thought the field trip was definitely worthwhile. “I enjoyed seeing all of the art done by the various authors, it was interesting seeing how each piece of art connected to each other,” Ramirez said.

One example of this interconnectedness, is between the “One Child of Millions” by Paula Colman and Paul Hamilton’s piece.  The fence from Colman’s piece leaks and spills into Hamilton’s piece, a portrait of a refugee.

Being an immigrant himself, Ramirez was already aware of the refugee crisis, but he still benefited immensely from the experience. “I was already aware of the issues going on, but seeing the perspective of other people on the same issues really opened up my eyes,” Ramirez said.

The current state of the world has made the exhibit particularly important and powerful to many, including Moidu. “I think that in a world that can seem very divided right now, projects and efforts like this one, that encourage people to find their shared humanity and to connect with one another, is very important,” Moidu said.