Jim Power, aka “the Mosaic Man,” Adorns the Lampposts of New York City’s East Village

This short inter­net doc­u­men­tary from Etsy pro­files Jim Pow­er, a.k.a. “Mosa­ic Man,” an artist and local his­to­ri­an of sorts on Manhattan’s Low­er East Side who cre­ates tile por­traits of the city’s most sig­nif­i­cant peo­ple and places. Pow­er embod­ies all of the qual­i­ties that attract­ed me to the neigh­bor­hood in the ear­ly 2000’s—a hard-bit­ten do-it-your­self ethos and a ded­i­ca­tion to com­mu­nal val­ues. And he has with­stood the forces that drove me out: the often harsh impact of so-called “qual­i­ty of life” laws passed by May­ors Giu­liani and Bloomberg and the soar­ing rents occa­sioned by encroach­ing new devel­op­ments and ever-increas­ing demand for real-estate on the island. Dur­ing Giuliani’s tenure in the 90s much of the arts com­mu­ni­ty in low­er Man­hat­tan was swept away, includ­ing fifty light posts bear­ing Jim Power’s now-clas­sic mosaics.

But Pow­er is undaunt­ed and is work­ing to rebuild the “Mosa­ic Trail,” tile mosaics on a series of light poles and oth­er fix­tures rep­re­sent­ing sev­er­al eras of Low­er East Side his­to­ry and cul­ture. Power’s mosaics have been a stal­wart fea­ture of the neighborhood’s idio­syn­crat­ic land­scape, as has the artist him­self. Home­less for near­ly thir­ty years, he is sus­tained by the gen­eros­i­ty of his neigh­bors, who have donat­ed stu­dio space and help­ing hands. But he con­tends with the harsh conditions—whether on the streets or in the city shelters—that all New York’s home­less must, as you can read on his web­site. Nonethe­less, Pow­er thrives, in part, because as the documentary’s direc­tor Tara Young writes on her Etsy blog, “Jim’s not out for fame. He makes his art for the com­mu­ni­ty that he loves and that loves him so dear­ly in return.”

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