Barbara Nelson and Adam Frelin stand proudly at one of the installation sites this past summer. (TheSpot518 file photo)
ALBANY — Today marks the official conclusion of the Breathing Lights public art installation, a large-scale public art project across Albany, Schenectady and Troy and an unprecedented example of collaboration and cooperation between the region’s cities. Over the course of the two-month installation, Breathing Lights was directly observed by tens of thousands, and dozens of events and programs across the region engaged more than 10,000 residents and visitors directly through more than 40 public events presented across the region.
Breathing Lights programming and conversations will continue even as the installation goes dark. Continuing programming includes the project’s Building Reclamation Clinics, a series of toolbox-style courses offered in partnership with Keybank, Bender Scientific Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, designed to provide education on navigating the process of buying and renovating an abandoned home. For more information on the Building Reclamation Clinics, visit www.BreathingLights.com/learn.
Additionally, a Spring Project Finale Celebration & Policy Summit is scheduled for Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8. At the event, project organizers plan to analyze findings from the project’s research partners at the University at Albany, who have been gathering data on reaction to Breathing Lights.
The public will also be able to see a behind-the-scenes looks at Breathing Lights running through Friday, Feb. 17 at the Hamilton Hill Arts Center (409 Schenectady Street, Schenectady) weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and by appointment.
Breathing Lights is one of four winners of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, selected from 237 city applicants nationwide. Projects in Gary, Ind., Los Angeles, Calf. and Spartanburg, SC were also selected.
Lead Artist Adam Frelin and Lead Architect Barbara Nelson developed the innovative program over the course of nearly two years to pay homage to local history, create dialogue and bring together communities. Local students, engineers, artists and product developers designed, built and installed the custom lighting fixtures over the past 90 days.
The temporary art project illuminated the windows of hundreds of vacant buildings throughout Albany, Schenectady and Troy, creating vibrant art and spurring beneficial dialogue in neighborhoods with high vacancy rates. The installation represented an unprecedented collaborative effort between the Tri-Cities, and earned attention from national news outlets including the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Times and the Associated Press.
“Breathing Lights has proven to be not only an evocative and innovative example of socially conscious artwork, but also a conversation piece both locally and nationally,” said Frelin. “This project brings to the fore many important, difficult issues and questions, but does so in a way that evokes wonder and curiosity. Throughout Breathing Lights I was continually reminded of the impact public art can have in the reactions it produced by the thousands – I am grateful to have been able to have been a part of that.”
“Breathing Lights is unique in that it is more than an arts project – it is a community project,” said Nelson. “The power of public art lies in its ability to bring communities together, to spark conversations and to encourage us to look at the world and work together in new ways. I believe Breathing Lights has done just that, through art and extensive community programming.”
Breathing Lights programming over the two-month installation included more than 40 public events, including city-specific receptions, openings and events; walking and trolley tours; seminars; and Building Reclamation Clinics. Additionally, films, installations and performances by Community Art Awards winners selected as part of the Breathing Lights project portrayed the experiences and stories of those who live in the Breathing Lights neighborhoods.
The Breathing Lights installation represented the culmination of almost two years of hard work by project organizers, city officials, members of the community.