We were saddened when the news broke that Jim Power, the famous “Mosaic Man” of the East Village, has begun tearing his mosaics down. Today, he explained that he is removing them before the city has a chance to, as Astor Place continues its redesign. “This is Mosaic Massacre, 2014,” said Powers. “They are planning to move them to Queens, or all over the city – who knows where. They called them ‘historic artifacts’. Well, they weren’t made to be artifacts in Queens.” Yesterday we had a chance to photograph Jim Powers in action as he removed his works from the Mosaic Trail.
After returning from military service in Vietnam with undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Power was struggling and homeless. He found his voice when he began decorating lamp posts in the late 80s, and estimates that he has decorated around 60 or 70 poles since then. Over the years, he has become something of a neighborhood icon himself, and his mosaics have been highlighted in world wide, in tour guides and magazines, including National Geographic. Recently, he has been offering tours and art-making workshops around the East Village, including a workshop at the Lower East Side Girls Club, where he taught the girls how to create outdoor mosaics.
Though both he and passersby were visibly upset, Power maintained a lively and upbeat attitude while removing the work and speaking with us. He says he plans to re-purpose these tiles in new mosaics, pointing out that he has already smoothed the edges on these fragments, which was a lot of work. We hope they find a new life very soon.