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

This unprecedented, multi-city installation also transformed public streets into an evocative experience and provided a platform to reinvigorate stakeholders 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 programming and 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.

The Artists Behind the Lights

Breathing Lights was conceived by artist Adam Frelin and architect Barbara Nelson, in partnership with the mayors of Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Adam is Associate Professor of art at the SUNY University at Albany, and Barbara is executive director of TAP Inc., which focuses on urban revitalization, architectural preservation, sustainability, fair housing and removal of architectural barriers.

Adam FrelinBarbara Nelson

Who We Are

Breathing Lights was produced through a collaboration of public and private partners, led by a team including lead artist Adam Frelin, lead architect and community engagement director Barbara Nelson, project director Judie Gilmore, and project executive Debra Onslow. The project was region-wide partnership of over 75 cross-sector partners and organizations.

Project leadership included Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden. The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region served as the project’s fiscal agent and lead administrator. The Albany County Land Bank, the Capital Region Land Bank, and the Troy Community Land Bank provided access to vacant buildings. Albany Barn, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady, and the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy served as neighborhood hubs because of their track records of successful programming and their locations in communities with high levels of vacancy.

Core Team Members

Adam Frelin

Adam Frelin | Lead Artist

Adam explores multiple strategies for how to insert emblematic additions into outdoor locations and public places.
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Barbara Nelson

Barbara Nelson | Lead Architect and Community Engagement Director

Barbara is a long-time Troy resident and architect who believes that community design and public art can be catalysts to better disadvantaged communities.
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Judie Gilmore

Judie Gilmore | Project Director

Judie is an independent arts consultant, curator and writer who works with organizations and individuals on public projects, exhibitions, site-specific installations and project development.
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Deborah Onslow

Deborah Onslow | Project Executive

After Deborah retired as president and general manager of WMHT Public Broadcasting, she established a consulting practice specializing in helping nonprofits succeed.
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branda miller, sanctuary, troy, breathing lights

Branda Miller | Arts in Education Director

Branda is an internationally recognized media artist, Professor of Media Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Arts and Education Coordinator at The Sanctuary for Independent Media.
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alana sparrow graphic design social media breathing lights the foundry

Alana Sparrow | Social Media Manager & Graphic Designer

Alana is an award winning artist, designer, writer, and marketing communications professional with 25+ years experience.
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corey aldrich

Corey Aldrich | Event Manager

After two decades in the real estate sector, Corey started a consulting business that works with mission-based organizations.
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tayron lopez tai sage college

Tayron Lopez | Intern

Tayron Lopez (Tai) grew up in the Bronx. With no art based schools there, he traveled and attended Manhattan’s High School of Art & Design where he studied architecture and animation, and developed a love for cooking.
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patrick harris jr

Patrick Harris, Jr. | Troy Site Coordinator

Patrick is a multimedia and digital marketing consultant living in Troy. After graduating from RPI, he set out to explore the gap between corporations and communities.
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elyse brown union college schenectady site coordinator breathing lights

Elyse Brown | Schenectady Site Coordinator

Elyse has been a resident of Schenectady her entire life. After graduating from SUNY Buffalo with a degree in History and Anthropology,
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Breathing Lights is an unprecedented regional collaboration among the mayors of three cities and multiple public and private partners, including:

City of AlbanyCity of SchenectadyCity of Troy

Troy Land Bank Albany Land BankCapital Region Land Bank