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Artist, Local Youth Team Up for Albee Square Sculpture Celebrating Inventor Lewis Latimer

Lewis H. Latimer patented drawings in 1880 for the electric lamp and the method for manufacturing carbon filament in incandescent bulbs
The ribbon cutting for Albee Square light sculpture BEACON. Photo: Supplied.

A new twelve-foot-tall steel, motion-activated LED sculpture inspired by inventor Lewis H. Latimer is lighting up Albee Square in Downtown Brooklyn thanks to local youth and artist, Shervone Neckles.

The public art sculpture conceptualized and built by Neckles in partnership with fellows from Beam Center -- where youth learn metal-working, welding, circuitry, cement/polymer casting, mold-making, and more -- is titled BEACON and is in honor of African American inventor Lewis H. Latimer. Latimer’s 1880s patent drawings paved the way for the electric lamp and method for manufacturing carbon filament in incandescent bulbs.

BEACON, which is walking distance from where Lewis and Mary Latimer lived in 1893 - 1902 on Adelphi Street between Willoughby St. and Myrtle Avenue, was installed in celebration of what would have been Latimer’s 173rd birthday.

Neckles said BEACON was a public artwork designed to illuminate its immediate surroundings with light, based on proximity and direct interaction with the structure. She added that the sculpture reexamined local history and put into context the impact of Latimer’s legacy on our everyday lives.

"Metaphorically, it's about illuminating truth, illuminating one’s existence, and illuminating the life and contributions of pioneer American inventor Lewis Howard Latimer,” Neckles said.

“Like Latimer, many of us have had to affirm our existence by telling our own stories as a way of offering new perspectives on our lived experiences.”

Brian Cohen, executive director of the Beam Center, said the organization has always believed that young people required authentic experiences of collaboration for their future, and on seeing the proposal for the work the team was fascinated to learn Latimer’s love of drawing “was the catalyst for all the greatness he achieved in life.”

“At Beam, we believe one’s interest can form the core of a career and continued learning. We’re here to help young people believe in their own capacity and ideas, and to use their interests as springboards for innovation in whatever direction they decide to go,” he added.

BEACON is one of the projects funded through the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, under New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). It will be on view in Downtown Brooklyn's Albee Square through Spring 2022.