Conversation Starters

Two Art Projects Earn Honors for University

Professor Adam Frelin stands in front of one of the buildings included in "Breathing Lights," a multi-city art installation that lit abandoned structures with glowing, pulsing light. (Photo by Paul Miller)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 29, 2017) — Two projects that sparked conversations about sustainability have earned UAlbany honors in an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) competition.

The University’s submission for AASHE’s 2017 Sustainability Awards included the Art Museum’s exhibition “Future Perfect: Picturing the Anthropocene” and the community art installation “Breathing Lights.” Programming and community engagement surrounding the two exhibits together demonstrated “the use of art as the catalyst for critical sustainability conversations,” the submission said.

The University was named a finalist in the Campus Sustainability Achievement category of the AASHE awards, which honor achievements, research advancements and student leadership.


 In “Future Perfect: Picturing the Anthropocene,” artists explored human’s impact on the Earth.

“Being considered for an AASHE Sustainability Achievement Award is the pinnacle in recognition for collective impact and engagement,” said Mary Ellen Mallia, the University’s director of sustainability. “I am very proud of our campus efforts and the leadership displayed by our University Art Museum and Fine Arts department, especially Janet Riker, Corinna Ripps Schaming, Danny Goodwin and Adam Frelin, in shepherding these projects and fostering conversation and change around environmental and social stewardship.”

The Anthropocene project, envisioned by Associate Professor of Art Danny Goodwin, Museum Director Janet Riker and Associate Director and Curator Corinna Ripps Schaming, asked artists to explore human’s impact on the earth. The project received seed money through the Presidential Initiatives Fund for Research and Scholarship (PIFRS) in May 2015 and undertook a yearlong planning process, lining up the artists to create the exhibit, reaching out to internal and external contributors for the public programs and procuring additional sponsorship and collaborators. This work culminated in the installation of the exhibit in August 2016, followed by a semester’s worth of lectures, brown-bag lunch discussions and other activities during the fall of 2016.

The Breathing Lights project, led by Associate Professor of Art Adam Frelin in collaboration with architect Barbara Nelson, was a temporary public art installation that illuminated windows of hundreds of vacant houses in Albany, Schenectady and Troy with pulsing glow that mimicked the rhythm of human breathing. Buildings were lit nightly in October and November of 2016, and the installation was supported by eight months of programming and events in the three cities. The project won a grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, which supports public art projects that address a critical issue.

“By raising the visibility of high-impact sustainability projects and pioneering research, the awards program helps to disseminate innovations and inspire continued progress toward sustainability,” AASHE said in a press release announcing the finalists. Entries were judged on overall impact, innovation, stakeholder involvement, clarity and other criteria.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, businesseducation, public health,health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare and sociology, taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.