Breathing Lights

Breathing Lights fascinated viewers

Art installation encouraged public to talk about urban blight, the life of neighborhoods

Breathing Lights, a temporary public art installation supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, brought a multitude of Capital Region organizations (ranging from the Sanctuary for Independent Media to the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region) together in the fall of 2016 for “an arts-based approach to stimulating local and regional revitalization.”

Hundreds of vacant homes throughout the tri-cities were fitted with glowing window treatments, each pulsing with the rhythm of a human heartbeat. The effect, subtle and mesmerizing, married beauty and intent—fascinating viewers while also highlighting the inequities of the urban environment. Paired with eight months of youth media projects, building reclamation clinics, community arts presentations, gallery talks and policy discussions, Breathing Lights—conceived and developed by artist Adam Frelin and lead architect Barbara Nelson—brought much-needed attention to the forgotten neighborhoods of the Capital Region.

As the project launched, Proctors CEO Philip Morris said, “Breathing Lights will illuminate hard hit communities in Albany, Schenectady and Troy, using the power of art to make neighborhoods feel safer, more attractive and more livable. The project is also a grand step for the region’s Creative Economy, which is coming together to make our corner of upstate New York an ever richer place to be.”

Comments from both the media and the public were glowing. “Simply put: The installation is arresting,” said Amy Biancolli of the Times-Union. “It’s unlike anything you’ve seen. And at the very least, those eerily glowing homes brought people together and got them talking about blight, the life of neighborhoods and the absent light of empty homes.”