Bloomberg Philanthropies this spring announced that Breathing Lights, the regional submission by the cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, has been selected as one of four projects from across the United States to receive up to $1 million as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge. Other winning projects are located in Gary, Indiana; Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Los Angeles, California.

Breathing Lights, the joint submission from Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, proposes to illuminate up to 300 vacant homes in the three cities nightly over two months in fall 2016. Working with lead artist Adam Frelin, lead architect Barbara Nelson ’80, who served as project manager for campus planning and facilities design at Rensselaer until recently, and more than 25 community and private sector partners, including the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer, this installation aims to regenerate interest in once-vibrant neighborhoods that currently have high vacancy rates.

The project will culminate in a regional summit on vacant homes and neighborhood revitalization that will engage local residents, prospective buyers and investors, and policy makers. Full information on Breathing Lights, including a short video; bios for Adam Frelin, Barbara Nelson, and project coordinator Judie Gilmore; and a full list of partners is available at

Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for innovative temporary public art projects that address a civic issue, and demonstrate close collaboration between artists or arts organizations and city government. Proposals covered a range of issues, such as the revitalization of decayed downtown areas, underutilized waterfronts, and vacant neighborhoods. They also addressed social themes including neighborhood safety, environmental sustainability, and promoting city identity. More than 230 cities submitted proposals for consideration in the Public Art Challenge, representing 68 million residents across the United States.

“The issue of neighborhood revitalization is at the forefront of our efforts in Troy,” said Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia. “When we first heard about Breathing Lights, we immediately knew it was a way to literally shine a light on the issues of urban vacancy and community development. Breathing Lights is a creative way to engage residents and organizations across the region in a way that can produce meaningful transformation in our neighborhoods and cities.”

“When we first heard about the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, we worked quickly to issue a public call for submissions,” said Karen Bilowith, president and CEO, the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region. “Two of these submissions, sent independently by Adam and Barbara, complemented each other perfectly. We brought Adam and Barbara together, and they developed Breathing Lights as a completely original public art project that would also serve as a strong call-to-action around the issues of neighborhood revitalization, abandoned buildings, and equity in community development. Breathing Lights represents our collective vision for drawing much-needed attention to the issue of neighborhood and community revitalization through public art.”

“The Bloomberg Philanthropies recognition and support will catapult our region into the world of public art,” said Nelson. “It is an honor to have our proposal evaluated alongside big cities with well-established public art initiatives. We sought to propose a beautiful temporary art installation with permanent impact. We took the Bloomberg Philanthropies objective of art as a vehicle for community and economic development very seriously. This project challenges the public to see vacant structures as economic resources instead of just liabilities.”

Full information on all projects can be found at