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Jim Power, the ‘Mosaic Man Photo by: Buzzfeed

New York's Irish ‘Mosaic Man’ gets big boost from online campaign

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Jim Power, the ‘Mosaic Man Photo by: Buzzfeed

Known as "Mosaic Man," Jim Power is somewhat of a local celebrity in New York City's East Village. A mosaic artist, he covers lampposts with tiles that represent a moment in history or pay homage to people or agencies, like the New York Fire Department. He has dubbed his series of lampposts the "Mosaic Trail."

Power, who emigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1959 and is a Vietnam vet, says he made his first mosaic pole in 1987 or 1988.

"I'm a post-traumatic-stress survivor, if there is such a thing," he told CBS News. "And I do believe this has a therapeutic value."

He was given the nickname "Mosaic Man" in 1988 by The Village Voice, and the city gave him permission to continue his artwork on public property.

In 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a proclamation thanking Power for "beautifying the city with distinctful, artful mosaics."

Power is now 65 years old and lives in assisted housing. He still makes mosaics with his canine companion by his side. However, many of the poles are half-finished or falling apart. Many of his mosaics have been removed. There are only about 20 remaining from the 60 or 70 he's built over the years.

Power can't read very well or write. He's also disabled and walks with a limp. This was stopping him short from getting the support he needed to continue his work until about two years ago when Matt Rosen appeared.

"Jim's work has been really cool, I've seen it forever," Rosen said. "I've always enjoyed and appreciated it, and despite being one of the newcomers, if you will, to the neighborhood - I haven't been around for 40 years - I still have an appreciation for what came before. So when Jim said, 'Hey, help me out,' I said, 'Yeah, I could probably do that for you.'"

The 32-year-old, whose full-time job is helping run an e-commerce platform for wine retailers called WineFetch, has been instrumental in getting the word out about Power's  art. Rosen runs Power's Facebook page, Twitter account and his Tumblr site, which now has more than 67,000 followers.

Rosen also helped create Power's Etsy shop, which sold 20 mosaic belts within two hours of opening.

"Jim made two grand in 48 hours - that's pretty good for a homeless guy," Rosen said.

An Indiegogo fundraiser campaign has helped raised more than $5,000, which went toward the scooter that helps Power get around.

Power wanted to raise $80,000 and hire full-time labor to finish decorating the 80 poles the city allows him to use for his artwork.

"I don't see it happening," Power said. "I'm not pulling rabbits out of the hat any longer. I'm not even going to try."

Rosen, who is still trying to come up with strategies on what to do next in his campaign for Power, said he plans on helping the artist until he calls it quits.

National Geographic recently added the Mosaic Trail as a must-see to its Walking New York travel guide.

"Up until recently, if you looked at a guide book about downtown New York, they talked about Katz's Deli and they talked about the Tenement Museum, which are institutions onto themselves, but this neighborhood is awesome," Rosen said. "It's got a lot more to offer than Katz's Deli - if it brings them to the bars, it brings them to the restaurants, everybody makes out."

You can make a direct donation to support Jim Power and his art at mosaicmannyc.com/donate.

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