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Public Art To Light Deserted Tri-Cities Buildings

Three Capital Region cities are gearing up for the new "breathing lights" display.

Hundreds of vacant buildings across Albany, Schenectady and Troy will be lit nightly come this fall: lumination is being funded by Bloomberg Philosophies through its Public Arts Challenge Initiative. Architect Barbara Nelson:  "We were chosen among about 50, I think, proposals in the Capital Region. It was the Regional Alliance For Creative Economy that decided that the are as a whole, the three cities together, would be better situated to compete for this million dollar grant against cities like Chicago and Philadelphia and Boston and L.A.,  so they called the three mayors and the three mayors said 'Yeah sure, give it a try,' and then what do ya know? We got it!"

The urban art project aims to transform public streets into "an evocative experience." Warm light will fill each building's windows with a diffuse glow that mimics the gentle rhythm of human breathing. Concentrated in neighborhoods with high levels of vacancy, Breathing Lights aims to transform abandoned structures from pockets of shadows into places of warmth.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden have embraced the concept:  "We look at these ideas, concepts, that are around distressed properties, and how do we convert those back so that they're assets within the community in their respective neighborhoods..." "...and it's a perfect embodiment of what can happen when we work together, and when we look at where we have common challenges and come up with common solutions, and I think that that's understandably that's what our residents are asking us for..." "I spent thirty years prior to engaging in politics, working in the lower income neighborhoods in Troy, rehabbing buildings, doing the buildings that nobody else could or would do, to develop housing and develop communities."

Led by Nelson and artist Adam Frelin, organizers say Breathing Lights will also bring together local fabricators, students, engineers, artists, designers and product developers, supporting the local creative economy. The plan entails having lights on from 6 to 10 p.m each day.

Jerry Ford is a neighborhood ambassador in Troy. He believes Breathing Lights will impress young minds.   "There's a sayin' that says 'light shines and darkness comprehends it not,' so when they actually see the light in the midst of their situation in their neighborhood, where not the best things happen, it just will stimulate them and wanna push them to move forward in their lives. The impossibilities of their minds will just be endless."

Programs developed in each partner city will educate youth in the media arts of video, radio, interview, scripting, storytelling and print.  Finished projects will be featured at City Weekend events and at the Breathing Lights culminating summit.

In all, Breathing Lights includes eight months of programming and events encompassing a variety of projects, presentations, policy discussions and more.  For more information, click here!

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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