Jim Power has worked for 25 years on his public art project in New York’s East Village and Lower East Side.
New York City’s East Village doesn’t have it’s own museum, or at least not in the traditional brick-and-mortar sense. Instead, the neighborhood’s rich history — from its days as a dangerous, grimy, and riot ridden area to its current state as a gentrified hipster playground — is chronicled on 80 lampposts scattered throughout the area. Jim Power, aka the ‘Mosaic Man,’ has worked on creating the ‘Mosaic Trail’ for more than 25 years, quitting his full-time job as a carpenter in the late 1980’s to focus exclusively on the project.
The lampposts detail the area’s rich artistic heritage, and in Jim’s own words:
[They're] very much and totally about the history of the Lower East Side by the people that have come through this neighborhood over the years that have affected the world.
The variety of the images on the poles are as diverse as the neighborhood itself–the ‘Gangster’ pole, dedicated to gangsters Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Lucky Luciano (who lived in the area), indicate the once-violent reputation of the area. The ‘Fillmore’ Pole, on the other hand, showcases the neighborhood’s reputation as a progressive, counterculture hub and pays homage to the Fillmore East and the famous bands, like the Grateful Dead, that played at the venue. Another pole remembers the members of the FDNY who lost their lives during 9/11, and another is simply a beautiful sign for Tompkins Square Park.
Power, who has been homeless for almost the entirety of the project, has been able to continue his work through the help of the community. When Guilani tore down 50 of his mosaic lampposts in the 1990’s, the community rallied to save the remaining 30, and a local business donated a studio space to Jim. Power is now restoring the damaged poles with the help of friends, and has become such an icon of the East Village that several businesses have commissioned him to create their signage (with one even naming a sandwich after him!).
Jim speaks to his mission of restoring the full Mosaic Trail:
It’s about the area… so I have a responsibility to fix this up for the people that love this work.
Etsy recently made a video about Jim and the Mosaic Trail, watch it below and follow Jim and his work here: