A public art challenge looking to transform Albany, Schenectady and Troy, could grant the tri-cities $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Roughly 237 cities nationwide applied, only 12 were selected -- and just one made the cut from New York State. In this edition of Capital Region Close Up, Karen Tararache shows us "Breathing Lights."

CAPITAL REGION, N. Y. -- Chances are you've seen them before. 

"There are thousands of them, and they just suck the life out of our neighborhoods," said Breathing Lights architect Barbara Nelson.

Abandoned properties, "really they're black hole," Nelson said, each with their own story. "They're called zombie buildings by some because they're just on the edge of life." 

Where there was once shade peppered across Albany, Schenectady and Troy, there may soon be a warm glow.

"Look at the light, it's almost meditative, take a breath," explained Nelson.

Breathing Lights Artist, Adam Frelin said, "When Barbara had mentioned this idea of lighting these buildings and I thought of the idea of them breathing, it felt like a very apt metaphor."

A tri-city collaboration spearheaded by the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region hopes to be one of three selected nationwide for a million dollar grant from a Bloomberg Philanthropies Art Challenge. 

“So the lights will actually go on and off sort of dim and light at different frequencies," Karen Bilowith, the president of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region said.

Frelin added, “The idea is that you're creating the appearance of a lifeblood that runs beneath all of them.”

Four grad students at RPI's Lighting Research Center have developed a way to make Adam and Barbara's vision a reality.

"We tried several different materials and butcher paper wound up looking the best," RPI grad student Kassandra Gonzales said.  

RPI grad student Zachary Pearson said, "I've been working on developing what strips would work best, and the communication system that jumps that over from the chip that has the memory through the translation to get this into the ribbon and bring it to full power."

If the project is selected, at the end of the two month installation as each of the windows, one-by-one fall back into the darkness, the hope is that stakeholders in communities throughout the Capital Region will step up to find possible solutions for these vacant buildings.

“It'll spur us into action and start to think yeah this is a problem if we could figure out a way to collectively try to solve this -- how wonderful that would be,” Frelin said. 

The three winners will be selected sometime in May.  

For more information about Breathing Lights, click here. And to check out all the finalists in the Bloomberg Art Challenge, click here.