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For two months in fall 2016, Breathing Lights illuminated the street-facing windows of hundreds of vacant buildings in the neighboring cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, NY. Warm light filled each window with a diffuse glow that pulses with the gentle rhythm of human breathing. Concentrated in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with high vacancy rates, these installations transformed vacant structures from pockets of shadows into places of warmth. This massive installation helped illuminate the region’s struggle with vacancy and its effects on residents and neighborhood economies, and regenerated interest in once-vibrant communities. Funded through a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies “Public Art Challenge” grant, Breathing Lights was led by myself as lead artist, and architect Barbara Nelson. This project brought together local architects, students, engineers, artists, and product developers to design and install custom light instruments. Illumination kits consisted of miniature LED strip lights bound in adhesive fabric, affixed to interior window frames. The lights shined through windows covered in diffusion material, powered and controlled by batteries. In a region that pioneered electricity, a project centered on lighting technology infuses the installation with history and place.
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