So much has changed along St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. But as shops, and even buildings come and go ~ Jim Power and his Mosaic Trail can still be found.
Walk with us along St. Mark’s Place, from Astor Place to Tompkins Square Park, on Jim Power’s Mosaic Trail.
While serving in the military in Vietnam, after being drafted in 1968, Power was very much taken with the many mosaics found in the temples. After he returned, he began creating his historic mosaics, including The Mosaic Trail throughout the East Village, beginning in 1985 as a tribute to workers.
In addition to The Mosaic Trail on St. Mark’s Place/8th Street, his tribute to Fillmore East and the rockers who played there can be found on the light pole at the North West corner of 6th Street and 2nd Avenue.
On a pole outside Cooper Union, viewers will find the names of Susan B. Anthony and former President Bill Clinton – both spoke at The Great Hall at Cooper Union. He has poles honoring the NYPD, FDNY, and 9/11.
In total, Power estimates that he created about 80 mosaic poles. However many of them were targeted as guerrilla art by the Anti-Graffiti Task Force during the Giuliani years, and removed.
In 2004, Power was given a Proclamation by Mayor Mike Bloomberg for “beautifying the city with distinctive, artful mosaics,” and the city eventually gave him permission to continue his work on public property.
Now living in an assisted living facility, Power spent many years on the streets of the East Village, homeless. Even with no money, he found a way to find the thousands of glass pieces and ceramic fragments used to create his work. Although he did have an occasional commission (a coffee shop at Union Square, China Club in Midtown West) this was a passion ~ not a money-making venture.
Each pole consists of over 1,000 pieces of small found objects, tiles, ceramics, glass, mirrors, with each pole taking being one and two months to complete.
Other poles include The Ganster Pole, with images of Al Capone, John Dillinger and Lucky Luciano, who lived a few block away from this pole. There is a pole for what was the Yiddish Theatre and its performers, and even a pole commemorating the 10th anniversary of the NYC blackout!
Jim Power’s mosaics are in all the guide books from National Geographic to Lonely Planet, along with tour guides in every language. Some consider The Mosaic Trail to be the gateway to the East Village.
The above panel, We the People 1787-1987, was an indictment of the drug and crime riddled city. This panel is located on the corner of St. Parks Place and Avenue A.
The mosaic installations have taken quite a beating over the years, losing tiles due to harsh winter weather. So when the Astor Place/Cooper Square Redesign Project was presented, the advocacy groups Village Alliance, City Lore and Green Village Society for Historic Preservation (among others) advocated to have 10 pieces of the artwork restored as part of the $16 million plan.
Born in Ireland, Jim Power moved to New York City in 1959. The colorful, eclectic mosaics are a big attraction for tourists, and have been used in several television programs.