Breathing Lights

Posted October 10th, 2016 by maryalbro and filed in Executive Director's Blog

For one sparkling minute each night, skyscrapers, tugboats, hotels, a yacht club and police cruisers send a blinking goodnight message to sick kids inside a children’s hospital. A gesture that began with a single light six years ago has become a nightly display along the Providence River — and a highly anticipated ritual — inside Hasbro Children’s Hospital.” ~ Matt O’Brien,

The messages are exchanged each night at 8:30 PM – four flashes “Goodnight Hasbro” come from as far as a church group in East Providence, 2 miles away.

The return message from the kids is two flashes- “Thank you.”

The real message- we haven’t forgotten you.

Check out the full story by Matt O’Brien here- it will make you a happier person.

Just a few days after this story was published a captivating piece on a public art installation came out in the Albany Times Union, “The Art of Bloomberg-funded Breathing Lights.”  Like the lights flashed between Providence and the children at Hasbro, lights come at dusk on in old structures in Troy, Schenectedy and Albany- a coordinated effort to bring attention to dark, abandoned buildings and disenfranchised neighborhoods. From 6-10 each night through November, using a Breathing Lights map ( you can visit these neighborhoods and see this art installation in person.

Amy Biancolli’s article about this project is so beautifully written, I encourage you to read it in its entirety at:

Here is a snippet: “On Locust near Chestnut, a gathering of adorable clapboard homes breathe in companionable silence. According to (artist Adam) Frelin, the team worked hard to find L.E.D.’s that echoed the incandescence of occupied homes, and their efforts paid off: the light beaming from within is warm and human, asking poignant questions in the darkness. What happened inside these houses? Why are they empty? Where did everyone go?

The lights humanize as they illuminate. In North Troy, the neighborhood around River Street has several lit structures, including an enormous, 20-window building on 7th Avenue and a tiny white clapboard house covered in vines on 6th. On River, sitting at the intersection with Smith, sits an empty shop with a winking storefront. Imagine the bustle that once marked that corner.

My friend once told me she knew her marriage was over when she returned home from a business trip late one night and the porch light was not on, again.

It’s a little thing but it’s everything, isn’t it?

Perhaps this is why this project is so special. Amy writes “Art always invites us to see, but good art challenges us to see in a new way — to notice something that’s been squatting in plain sight all along. Most of the buildings in “Breathing Lights” are just such ignored and invisible objects. Many are ramshackle houses that most of us, if we’re being honest, drive past with a blind eye. We turn from their weathered faces in the same way we look past the homeless. We’d rather not see them, so we don’t see them at all.

That’s why we should shine a light on, and for, them- sick children, old buildings, disengaged family. It is so easy to look past them, to leave them to the dark.

It’s a simple but profound gesture- leave a light on.  The breathing lights remind us, and them, that they are not forgotten.