How can art help to give voice to children and adults living in communities with high rates of vacancy and envision new resources for local residents to buy and renovate vacant homes?

Meeting Modern Visionaries

In October and November 2016, nightly from 6pm – 10pm, Breathing Lights illuminated the windows of hundreds of vacant buildings in Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Warm light filled each window with a diffuse glow that mimicked the gentle rhythm of human breathing. Concentrated in neighbourhoods with high levels of vacancy, Breathing Lights transformed abandoned structures from pockets of shadows into places of warmth.

Events were organised to give voice to children and adults living in communities with high rates of vacancy and to offer resources for local residents to buy and renovate vacant homes. Through youth media projects, building reclamation clinics, community arts presentations, gallery talks, policy discussions and more, Breathing Lights’ goal was to create an evocative, inclusive experience that transformed perceptions of vacant buildings and showcased an arts-based approach to stimulating local and regional revitalisation.

This unprecedented, multi-city installation transformed public streets into an evocative experience and provided a platform to reinvigorate partners around the Capital Region’s most visible symptom of decades of disinvestment. Working with dozens of community and private-sector partners, Breathing Lights included eight months of events, including youth media projects, building reclamation clinics, community arts presentations, gallery talks, policy discussions and more. At the end of the installation, windows – one by one – fell dark. In sharing a sense of loss came a stir to action.