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Must See: Art Project Brings New Life Into Blighted Buildings

Travelers Today       By    Elyssa Deluyas

Updated: Oct 06, 2016 08:46 PM EDT

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Urban blight, Breathing Lights, Adam Frelin, Barb Nelson

"Urban blight" is known at focusing on the image of a city in trouble like those vacant lots and buildings without residents. These are signs of economic ruin which shows such silence, abandonment, darkness and being lifeless. However, in October and November, the once-empty buildings in Schenectady, Troy and Albany, New York, will breathe new life as they are filled with light. City Lab described this as a part of a new art installation created to spur action around the region's economic blight.

Breathing Lights, the name of the project, is the brainchild of artist Adam Frelin and architect Barb Nelson. Both were awarded with a $1 million grant to generate public art to address local issues. Smithsonian says that the "light" part of the project's name is simple to understand - hundreds of buildings in the three cities will lit up from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thus, the "breathing" part is just as relevant.

"Warm light will fill each window with a diffuse glow that mimics the gentle rhythm of human breathing," the artists posted on their website. This is used to describe what is lost when buildings become vacant and the cities' ability to breathe new life back into abandoned urban areas.

Most of these secluded areas are called as "Zombie properties" after a building is foreclosed on and becomes the property and problem of a city. The mayor of Schenectady, Gary McCarthy, tells that the city spends upwards of $60,000 per abandoned property per year for essential services, code enforcement and maintenance, excluding the property tax revenue that is lost when a building is abandoned. A report from the National Vacant Properties Campaign, a consortium of mayors across the country, notes that abandoned buildings are associated with more crime, health hazards and lower property values that can lead to a spiral as more and more people bail on their neighborhoods.

Furthermore, Breathing Lights also exerts effort to help communities to fight their growing problem with blighted properties, providing a series of event and tours to catalyze the regions to reinvest in their areas.

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