Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, NY

Breathing Lights project comes to a close

“Breathing Lights,” the $1 million public art project that illuminated vacant homes in Schenectady, Albany and Troy, took its final bow on Friday during a nine-hour event at Proctors.

More than 200 people turned out for the “Breathing Lights Finale and Policy Summit,” which began in Key Hall with lunch and a question-and-answer session with the mayors of the three cities. It was followed by an afternoon of talks, videos, live performances and more Q&A in the GE Theater.

The forum concluded with a premiere screening of “Behind the Lights,” a WMHT documentary that will air at 10 p.m. Monday, April 17 on the public television station.

During the afternoon session, which focused on “Art and Inspiration,” the mood was celebratory, as project director Judie Gilmore stepped up to the podium. “Breathing Lights was never a real estate adventure” and “was misunderstood,” Gilmore said. “Breathing Lights disrupted the normalization of urban blight. It deepened and broadened existing networks.”

Speaking against a backdrop of changing images of the lighted homes on the theater’s giant screen, she listed the project’s three goals as “awareness of urban blight,” “increased appreciation of art” and “community activation and mobilization.”

Details on exactly how the Bloomberg Philanthropies grant was spent and what happened to the 200 vacant homes that pulsed with LED lights nightly in October and November will be released soon in a “massive data dump,” Gilmore said. “This is a preview of a full evaluation available in a few weeks.”

Through the website and social media, images and news about the project reached people around the world, she said. Website visits totaled 40,000 from 91 countries, with the most visitors coming from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Russia and India.

“Sixty-one percent of website audience was young, under 34,” Gilmore said. The social media audience, via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, was 32,500, from 37 countries. And there were more than 100 stories about Breathing Lights in the media, including The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press.

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