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Author: Ben Raynes, VP/Group Director, Executive Producer, DigitasLBi

Breathe Free: How I Used Art to Turn Frustration into Something Positive

Posted March 22, 2017

I painted “Breathe Free” as my own personal way to address my frustrations and disappointment over the recent legislation on immigration. I felt there was little I could do to help the state of our country, but I wanted to try.

As a first-generation American, I am grateful for the liberties this country extended to my parents when they arrived as immigrants in the ’60s. Prior to that, the United States welcomed more of my family members who arrived in the early 1900s, fleeing war-torn countries. My life would not be the same were it not for the freedoms given to my entire family. Indeed, life would look very different. It’s hard to imagine. It’s hard to imagine our country halting its tradition of welcoming people of any race or religion who are seeking shelter from the storm of persecution.


I looked inward to find some way to turn my frustration into something positive. In my spare time, outside of DigitasLBi, I paint what I call “Moving Paintings,” a series of mechanical, multi-media scenes. The scenes are painted in watercolor, and I implement gears that I design and print on 3D printers. They’re my analogue version of a cinemagraph.

I had the idea of creating a scene that depicted my sentiment towards immigration rights that could be raffled off to raise money for the ACLU. The scene depicts Lady Liberty welcoming a ship of immigrants, as she stands firm as a beacon of hope.

Making “Breathe Free” has eased my negative feelings and turned them into something positive. Friends, colleagues at DigitasLBi, the advertising community at large, and complete strangers on social media have all been extremely supportive. Together, we’ve already raised thousands of dollars, with 100% of proceeds going to the ACLU.

For nearly a century, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty. Working in courts, legislatures and communities, they’ve defended and preserved individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to protect all people from government abuse and overreach. I’m happy to have found a way to help their efforts.

If you would like to join me in supporting the ACLU and help immigrants Breathe Free, you can enter the raffle at benraynes.com.