Breathing Lights included a thorough community engagement program, centered at neighborhood hubs in each city that were trusted and established community organizations. The engagement strategy was created to give voice to residents who live in the neighborhoods with the highest density of vacant buildings—a voice in what it is like to live among such vacancy and a voice in how to rebuild and shape their neighborhoods’ futures.

For eight months leading up to and during the Breathing Lights installation, neighbors, art audiences and cultural tourists participated in free events showcasing the unique assets of each community: tours, community arts awards, participatory art workshops, building reclamation clinics, youth media workshops and informational sessions about gentrification, preservation and land bank and housing policies. Opening weekends in each city brought a concentration of visitors and generated buzz. Neighborhood ambassadors led walking and trolley tours of the installation.


An extensive archive of all the events and outreach efforts hosted by Breathing Lights.

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The hubs served as the project’s storefronts, a familiar location in each city where project information, resources and events.

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Youth media projects were developed to educate local young people in video, radio, interviewing, and scripting and storytelling.

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The Breathing Lights Arts Awards competition was created to commission a series of local artists’ projects related thematically to Breathing Lights to take place during the installation.

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“This felt like an opportunity to just be heard and hear others and that’s really the only way to break down those barriers… It was a great vehicle to get people from outside our neighborhood in [and] getting people from different neighborhoods to discover each other…” –Community Leader