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Examples of Jim Power's mosaic work on lamp-posts

in NYC's East Village are here, here, and here.






“Festive Art in a Festive Neighborhood:
Street Mosaics in New York City’s East Village”


by Eric Miller <>










Animal Behaviors of Marking...


History of Mosaics...


Public Art...


The Future...








“The Mosaic Man,” poem






Constituting the northernmost section of New York City’s Lower East Side, the East Village is a modest-sized neighborhood.  It is bordered by Broadway to the west, and the East River to the east; by Houston St. to the south, and 14th St. to the north.  From Broadway to the East River is eight long blocks (one mile); from Houston St. to 14th St. is 14 short blocks (3/4 of a mile).

The visitor’s traditional entrance corridor into the East Village begins at Broadway and St. Mark’s Place (also known as 8th St.).  The visitor proceeds eastward along St. Mark’s Place to 3rd, 2nd, 1st Aves., and finally to Ave A, where she comes upon Thompkins Square Park, which occupies the area from 7th to 10th Sts., from Ave. A to Ave. B.  If the visitor takes a right and walks down to 7th St. and Ave A., she will have walked to the very heart of the neighborhood.  There on Ave. A, across from the park, is Ray’s 24-hour news and egg cream storefront, outside of which, day and night, one can usually find people gathered, talking.

Our visitor may not have noticed, but in taking this stroll she has passed by a good deal of mosaic work--on tables, floors, and interior walls of shops and restaurants (much of it visible from the street); on a planter; on numerous external walls and storefronts; embedded in the sidewalk; and on perhaps 10 lampposts (to many of which are attached pedestrian and traffic lights).  These mosaics are by Jim Power, who began this work in 1987.  Jim’s street art, as well as many others’, is also scattered throughout the rest of the East Village.

Jim’s mosaic work is made up of a wide variety of materials: tiles, crockery, colored glass, mirrors, and seashells; some purchased, some donated, some found; the small pieces (many of them broken or cut by Jim) have been glued into place, and in many cases grout has been added imbetween the pieces.  There is abstract design, figurative representations, and a good deal of lettering.  Some of the lettering announces the cross streets and the names of shops and other landmarks; in one place it spells out “NYPD” and even the names of three police officers of whom Jim is especially fond.  Jim was paid to do much of this work--the mosaics on storefronts, for example, are decoration and lettering for advertising.  But some of this work--on walls, sidewalks, and lampposts--Jim undertook on his own.  The miracle is: almost all of it has remained unmolested.  Jim is a longtime and very visible resident of the neighborhood.  People seem to enjoy the mosaic work and find it interesting.  The set design of the original production of RENT!, the musical about life in the East Village, prominently featured mosaic work very similar to Jim’s; and Jim and his work have been covered in numerous television programs, newspapers, and magazines.  In short, this work has become emblematic of the East Village, which is one of the world’s premiere artistic and bohemian neighborhoods.

This paper interprets Jim Power’s mosaic work--and the East Village itself--as festive.  It finds that the mosaics are festive most of all in that they are decorative.  The paper asks: What are some facets, functions, and implications of this decorating?  Among the paper’s answers are that to decorate in this manner is to frame, appropriate, and transform.  In the course of exploring these issues, I will discuss festival, pilgrimage, and marketplace; animal behaviors of marking their environments; and the history and nature of mosaics and public art.  The paper argues that public and commercial artwork such as Jim’s adds a great deal to the quality of life in a neighborhood.  Finally, the paper considers the future of Jim’s mosaic work in the East Village, and offers some general suggestions regarding art, business, and life in communities.


Wherever the human spirit is free, people celebrate.  All cultures commemorate what makes them distinctive and worthy in their own eyes.  Periodically, a  common humanity in us all sets aside the work and worry of everyday life and blossoms into festivity, sometimes even in the face of cultural domination and  economic deprivation.1 

At the outset, it must be noted that the East Village is a unique neighborhood, with a history, going back hundreds of years, of raucous public involvement in the arts, politics, and other civic endeavors.  Thus, what works here might not be appropriate in precisely the same form in other locations.  For one thing, the East Village was, and remains, a major site of 60s and subsequent musical culture: for example, the Fillmore East (recently torn down) was located here, at Second Ave. and 6th St.  There are at least half-a-dozen stores in the East Village that sell only vinyl records: their customers are DJs who travel from afar to purchase the latest beats and sounds.  Although public and alternative spaces--such as gardens, squats, and funky performance spaces--are on the wane, there is very much a sense, a living tradition, of yearning and experimentation.  As mentioned, the East Village is at the north end of the Lower East Side: thus, physically, at least, it is in a mediating position between the many generations of immigrants who have entered the USA through the Lower East Side, and the rest of Manhattan and the USA beyond.  Thus the festive sense of mixtures of old traditions and new beginnings permeates the East Village.

New York City culture is famous for people breaking through formality and talking to each other on the street.  There is a great deal of verbal interchange, conversation, in New York City.  There is a festive quality to being able to strike up a conversation, or share a witty remark, with total strangers.  Mother told you, “Don’t talk to strangers,” so to do so is to be bold and adventurous: yes, it opens one up to possible danger, but “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  Street communication gives one a chance to give others “a piece of one’s mind.”  The act of speaking with other individuals, in addition to being festive, can also present opportunities for subversion against authority figures, who have often maintained power by following the dictum, “divide and conquer.” 

But what is festival?  And what makes a neighborhood, or art, festive?  One very demanding definition of festival (which the author admits is rarely fully found in practice) is:

A periodically recurrent social occasion in which, through a multiplicity of forms  and a series of coordinated events, all members of a whole community--united by ethnic, linguistic, religious, historical bonds, and sharing a worldview--participate directly or indirectly and to various degrees.  Both the social   function and the symbolic meaning of the festival are closely related to a series  of overt values that the community recognizes as essential to its ideology and worldview, to its social identity, its historical continuity, and to its physical  survival, which is ultimately what festival celebrates.2

Jim’s work is certainly celebratory--among other things, much of it celebrates the individual’s urge to give of himself for free, and the fact that this gift has to date been accepted by the public and the authorities.  However, his work does not seem to fully qualify for festival status on a number of other counts.  While he occasionally repairs old mosaics and adds new ones, he does not do so on a regular basis; and moreover, the mosaics are on permanent display.  “All members of a community” have not participated in the creation of this art: although Jim has welcomed contributions and assistance from others, these mosaics have been produced by an independent individual.

“Reversal, intensification, trespassing, and abstinence are the four cardinal points of festive behavior.”3  Of these four conditions, Jim’s lamppost mosaics might qualify regarding the first three: the blank (silver), state-supplied and managed lamppost surfaces are reversed and intensified into colorful, hand-made objects of art.  And it must be admitted that this was done by acts of trespass and transgression--the very work testifies to this, as it supplies the incriminating evidence.

Another author stresses the grotesque and disgusting nature (as perceived from a middle class perspective) of much festival activity.4   However, it seems to me that much of Jim’s work is beautiful.  It transforms via lamination and aggregation.  It customizes by decoration:

Mass culture posits a physically passive, if mentally active, consumer/user, whose major move is choosing which mass-produced commodity to acquire, and a standardized, unmodified product that is complete as purchased.  The term, customizing, refers here to the ways in which users modify mass-  produced objects to suit their needs, interests and values, and naturalize mass culture items into new systems of meaning and activity.5 

People tend to transform or destroy regimented structures.6  They use expressive behavior to personalize and humanize the urban environment.7  The folk leave an imprint on the built environment.8  This is an attempt at “place-making” (9), an alchemical process of investing love and skill to make a make place unique.  The streets of the East Village may not be paved with gold, but the street art is invaluable in its own way.  The following song from Shakespeare's The Tempest comes to mind: it is sung to a young man whose father, a head of state, has been taken by a storm at sea:

 Full fathom five thy father lies,
 Those are pearls that were his eyes,
 Of his bones are coral made.
 Nothing of him that doth fade, 
 But doth suffer a sea-change
 Into something rich and strange.10 

In cities

expressive behavior is generated by and about the urban experience.  The city  is thus not a museum of folk traditions brought to it from elsewhere, but a crucible in which expressive behavior is forged.11 

Cities and mass culture...offer a new frontier for exploring the indomitable will  to make meaning, create value, and develop connoisseurship under the most exhilarating, as well as the most devastating conditions.12 

The East Village is home to people of a very wide array of ethnic, linguistic, religious backgrounds: it is difficult to say if they have anything in common.  Perhaps one value that is widely held is tolerance of and pleasure in diversity.  Mosaics embody this diversity:

Certain material forms and modes of organizing physical space carry messages relating to the organization of social space; regulation of behavior in the concrete sphere of ritual action can express and regulate relationships in the sphere of social structure.13

In a mosaic, the pieces--from many different sources, of various colors and textures--fit together to form a harmonious whole.  New York used to be called a melting pot; since the mid-eighties, I have more often heard it referred to as a “gorgeous mosaic,” which stresses the positive sides to peoples maintaining their individual and traditional ways while also coming together.

One aspect of festival that definitely relates to Jim’s mosaic work on  lampposts is time.  Festival time is time-out-of-time, that is, there is a sensation of timelessness, an eternal now, a dissolution of the structure, divisions, and measurements of time.  The electric lights on lampposts come on at night and go off during the day: thus they mark and regulate night and day.  The attached traffic and pedestrian light signals likewise regulate traffic, telling one to go, or to wait before going.  These signals consist of two colors, red (dark) and green (light), with the transitional blinking yellow.  “Without rigid adherence to predictable routines a large compact society would scarcely be able to maintain itself.  The clock and the traffic signal are symbolic of the basis of the social order in the urban world.”14  Since shortly after the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the state--using state-supplied electricity--has precisely measured and rationed time for its citizens.  Similarly, we have time-at-work and time-off, and weekdays and weekends (holidays).  Some social critics have found this rationing to be oppressive:

The whole organization of the metropolitan community is designed to kill  spontaneity and self-direction.  You stop on the red and go on the green.  You  see what you are supposed to see, and think what you are supposed to think...  To choose, to select, to discriminate, to exercise prudence or continence or  forethought, to carry self-control to the point of abstinence, have standards other than those of the [mass] market, and to set limits other than those of  immediate consumption--these are the impious heresies that would challenge  the whole megalopolitan myth and deflate its economy.  In such a free society Henry Thoreau must rank as a greater public enemy than Karl Marx.”15

Jim’s mosaic work on lampposts features hundreds of colors! What messages might this end?  Certainly not just stop or go!  Perhaps it might signal one to pause and wonder, consider, meditate, admire the beauty of it, relax, and think, “I have arrived in the East Village.  Perhaps I will linger, savor the moment, and have a drink or a cup of coffee.”  (In so doing, one would contribute to the local economy.)  By signaling that this is a place where people can do such art, where individual voices can be heard in the public sphere, where the authorities allow such a thing, the presence of Jim’s lamppost mosaics may cause people to calm down, feel more self-respect, and act toward others with more respect.  It must be stressed that the mosaic work in no way obscures or counters the very useful regulating function of the traffic and pedestrian lights.  In fact, the mosaic work may cause people to be more sensitive and aware, and thus interact with vehicular traffic more wisely than they would otherwise.  It might be that the presence of the festive beauty and freedom of the mosaic work gives one something extra to live for.

At festive times, “we ornament getting dressed up and bringing out the best China and silverware.”16  Common to festival behavior is a change of context--putting on public view things from the private world.17  With Jim’s mosaics, the best China has been broken up and cemented into public view!

One aspect of mosaic work is the presentation and organization of a great number of small forms.  These small objects are in a sense representative of the people of the neighborhood, or can be seen as their offspring:

It would appear then that the typical plural adjuncts suggest fecundity, or  reproduction, or, more generally, the notion of multiplicity so important to the life-maintenance or “increase” notions central to the male cult.18 

The fireworks show is perhaps the “most dramatic and temporary of all of the festival arts, made for the moment of display only, destined to self-destruct, come apart, and disappear.  They exist only for the seized moment”.19  Festival materials are often “intended to be used up and discarded.  In this the festival is the enemy of the aesthetic moment, celebrating the transitory character of the calendared year.”20 

As pure pattern and pure possibility, fireworks are the epitome of a superabundance of signifiers.  They are everything and nothing or, to be more precise, a lot of sound and light signifying nothing.  And, like fireworks, a surplus of signifiers is dangerous, as well as entertaining and enlightening.21 

Festive employment of exploding devices, pieced-together costumes made in high-contrast and high-intensity colors, add to the temporary character of inventions, like the decorations on animals, carts, floats, and people.22 

What then of Jim’s mosaics, which are frozen explosions of color?  The irony of the fragments and shards he employs are that they are permanent-type materials, having been fired and glazed, but have been shattered and mixed...Jim’s mosaics are truly a post-modern artform!

Transformations brought about within the festive world are precisely the sort that cannot be carried into the world beyond festivities; to allow them here would be to open ourselves to charges of craziness.23

And yet, Jim’s mosaics are on display 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year.  New York is known as “the city that never sleeps,” and this is true especially of the East Village, where many newsstands, food stores, and restaurants remain open 24-hours.  After-hour nightclubs typically open around midnight; one often sees partiers and performers seemingly on their way home well into the next day.  It would seem then that the East Village has gone a long way toward being a perpetual festival zone: it never comes down from the high (although Lord knows the individuals do). 

In New York City, as in festival, life is experienced at high pitch.  As the saying goes, “There is a broken heart for every light on Broadway.”  There is much broken glass in the city, which can represent the many hopes and lives that have shattered there.  I find it comforting to see some of these broken pieces of glass, plates, etc., recycled into Jim’s mosaics. 

I conducted a very informal street survey, asking what distinguishes the East Village as a neighborhood.  One answer I received was that it is a place to “get high, make art, and make love.”  This is a more refined version of the 60s call for “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” and echoes the older, “wine, women, and song” (the latter statement being from the heterosexual male perspective).  It should noted, however, that Jim Power adamantly opposes the use of white powders such as cocaine and heroin, having seen many friends die of their use.  Recently Jim has stenciled the words, “No Heroin,” on numerous sidewalks of the East Village.

“Both fair and festival operate in the zone of nostalgia, as reminders of life in a simpler economy and technology, when individuals ‘could do for themselves.’”24   I do not believe that this applies to Jim’s work, which I read as a message demonstrating and encouraging direct action.

The use of hard, shiny objects for the festive decoration of public space is an ancient and universal practice--although of course each culture does it differently.  The following is from the Epic of the Anklet, committed to writing some 1600 years ago in Tamil Nadu, south India:

For Indra’s festival, wooden stands had been constructed on the balconies of the great mansions.  They were studded with emeralds and brilliants, and had pillars of coral...Strings of pearls hung from large and artfully wrought rings.25 

With youthful grace they together entered a pavilion of blue silk sown with pearls, its glittering pillars studded with precious gems and  adorned with  garlands of auspicious flowers.26


As mentioned, the East Village is famed as a site of 60s culture (musical and other).  Its much older history as a center of labor and political struggle is forgotten by many: it seems that our (pseudo-festive?) mass-media consumer culture facilitates historical amnesia about such things.  In any case, it can be said that, for many reasons, the East Village is a pilgrimage site:

All sites of pilgrimage have this in common: they are believed to be places where miracles once happened, still happen, and may happen again.  Even where the time of miraculous healings is reluctantly conceded to be past, believers firmly hold that faith is strengthened and salvation better secured by personal exposure to the beneficent unseen presence of...the local saint, mediated through a cherished image or painting.27

What are the miracles, and who are the saints of the East Village?  Many East Village-related people, especially musicians, became famous in the 60s.  In the 80s, there was a new wave of visual artists (Keith Haring, Richard Hambleton, Jean-Michel Basquiat) and, of course, Madonna, who lived in the East Village for some years and truly appropriated its fashion and repackaged it around herself for very successful world consumption.  Individual fame is certainly a miracle, one that many people come to worship and hope will “rub off” onto themselves.  But the 60s involved an entire sub-culture, actually an entire generation, achieving fame.  The 60s were--among other things--about personal expression, creativity, and freedom; about finding oneself through integrating body, mind, and spirit.  If artistic production begins with ceremonial objects designed for use in a cult, Jim Power’s mosaic art serves the cult of the creativity of, and direct action by, the individual--nourished by connection to artists of the past, and to all of the world’s cultures, whose people have entered the USA through the Lower East Side.  Although Jim has an outstanding sense of color and form, mosaic work--especially the abstract decorational variety--can be done by anyone. 

The pilgrimage center can house ideals of national identity, the identity of ethnic groups, regional cultures, or transnational religious groups... Pilgrimage centers  are repositories for a culture’s ideals.  They enshrine relics of the most revered saints or most authenticated apparitions of a culture’s ideals.28

In the case of the East Village, the ideals are national--pertaining to democracy--but also individual and cosmic.  A common local political chant is, “U.S. out of the Lower East Side.”  These sites--the neighborhood and Jim’s street art--are thus international ones.  The statement that “Pilgrimage trails cut across the boundaries of provinces, realms, and even empires” is all the more true in this case.29 

Around the world there are many tales of kings and others who have headaches or other infirmities which can only be relieved by visiting, or building and maintaining, shrines of a divinity.  The maintenance often includes the placing of fresh flowers, the reciting of prayers, and the lighting of candles.  As Emile Durkheim explained in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, the divinities and the sacred images of a community can be seen as projections embodying and symbolizing the collective membership, ideals, and history of that community.  Generally-speaking, the human problem is disconnection, alienation; and the cure is integration.  “The pilgrimage site is where the divine has issued forth into the human realm.  The shrine is a rupture in the ordinary domain, through which heaven peers.30  Jim’s mosaics represent such ruptures, which I believe can facilitate healing integration. 

“The cornerstone of the sacred journey is the quest for the culturally validated ideal (often depicted as a deity).”31  Of course, the worthiness of all cultural ideals is contested.  Some would say that the East Village and all it represents to them are worthless.  To visit or to patronize anything related to the East Village is in a sense to cast a vote in favor of it.

In societies with few economic opportunities for movement away from limited  circles of friends, neighbors, and local authorities, all rooted alike in the soil, the only journey possible for those not merchants, peddlers, minstrels, jugglers, tumblers, wandering friars, or outlaws...was a holy journey, pilgrimage, or crusade.32 

It can be said that a modern form of pilgrimage is tourism.  Tourists often want to see “the original life, not yet degraded by civilization.”33   Tourism is generally conceived of as a journey to the periphery to witness the Other, while pilgrimage is a journey to the center of one’s own culture.  In both cases, the traveler seeks the awesome: both involve a search for the authentic, a yearning which is based on the traveler’s alienation from self, history, and nature.

“At the end the exposed to powerful religious sacra (shrines, images, liturgies, curative waters, ritual circumambulations of holy objects, and so on).”34
In our case, there is a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage: Jim refers to his East Village mosaics as the Mosaic Trail.  He would like there to be accompanied and unaccompanied walking tours to the various mosaics, and is not averse to the idea of selling maps and small mosaic items to visitors: such commodities would be like relics.

Going from one mosaic to the other would perhaps be a modern equivalent of “beating the bounds”:

Once a year in certain London parishes, a queer custom is observed.  This is  known as “beating the bounds.”  The boys of the parish, union, or workhouse, clad in their corduroy trousers, blue jackets with brass buttons, and a very broad expanse of white collar...march in double file around the boundary of the parish...  Each boy carries in his right hand a long peeled willow wand...  Shrilly singing school songs, with their wands smiting all they pass...  The ceremony  over, the youngsters troop back to the union, where the London boy’s regulation treat, consisting of buns and milk, is dispensed.  The origin of this  old observance dates back many hundreds of years, to the day when apprentice lads of the city were a formidable body, who played an active part in the petty disturbances of the time.35


European markets developed out of fairs, which themselves arose because pilgrims converged on certain places at certain times of year because of the  holy relics there.  In such cases, the church found it very convenient to have  times of license for trade, and to provide charters for the fairs, and later, the markets, to be carried out.36

Many eye- and ear-catching devices are drawn upon to enhance the attractiveness of the seller and his goods or performances.  These techniques are shared with festivals, including many forms of illusion or bedazzlement.37

As mentioned, Jim’s mosaics serve many purposes.  One is to advertise local businesses.  These advertising mosaics help one remember a store: the ambiance of store is largely the thing by which it is remembered.  Advertisements are often considered to be visual pollution.38  However, when advertisements share a common style with adjacent public art, they can unify the environment and convey the sense that not everything is for sale.  Moreover, “a beautiful celebration is good business.”39  Jim’s advertising mosaics create a festive atmosphere around the businesses that have sponsored them.  Consumerism need not be a dirty word, especially when commodities are tempered by the presence of non-commodities.  Advertising decoration such as Jim’s “expresses not only the purpose of the building and its internal function but also symbolizes the traditions, aims, and ethics of the community.”40 

Marketplace and fair are associated with liberty...the marketplace displays  alternative things to buy and ways to act.  The market encourages choice and freedom of exchange.41

Jurgen Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere has shown that in the West the public sphere has come into existence through, and has been supported by, small business.  It is small business that helps resist the naturally overwhelming powers of large, distantly-controlled governments and corporations.

Jim Power himself is a small businessperson.  In addition to the mosaic services he provides, he also makes mosaic-top tables, which are very marketable commodities.  When assistants have been around and the mood has struck, he has made quite a number of mosaic tables, some of which are placed in local cafes, such as (139 Ave. A, between St. Marks Place and 9th St.).  There are continuities here--often unthought of in mainstream USA culture--between paid laborer, artist, and businessperson, and between art as commodity, advertisement, and public art.

The East Village is tucked away along the East River.  It is equidistant from the City’s two great skyscraper and business centers: Mid-town to the north and the Financial district to the south:

Markets operate in betwixt and between areas, for they are found in the interstices of the inhabited the free zones which are sometimes called Liberties, the unincorporated areas around civic entities, sometimes sanctuaries, for they are places in which people from different religions are allowed to carry out their practices in contrast to he regnant gods and goddesses of that civic entity.42

Socially, markets are especially suspect, for they elevate the status of the  outsider, the professional stranger, the screamers and shouters and clowns, the spielmakers and streetcorner speechmakers, the healers and the horsetraders.  Sociologically, they attack communitarian values by valuing so highly the capacity for communicating between and across cultures by developing an interstitial language made up of many features of many of the  cultures from which the marketpeople have come--creole languages and  practices.43

However, as long as the required taxes are paid and safety regulations are followed, untamed market areas need not be considered oppositional to the larger city.  To the contrary, such markets are one feature that make a city unique and attract people to visit the city: as such, cities have a financial interest in tolerating and even nurturing their special market areas.

Animal Behaviors of Marking Their Environments

Humans are not the only animals which leave imprints on their environments.  Before proceeding to consider the production of mosaic and public art in human civilization, it may be of value to widen our perspective and briefly observe ways in which other animals mark their environment: doing so may shed some light on the various motives inherent in human decorative activities.

Snails (littorina littorea) commonly secrete mucous (slime), leaving trails.  There is often a high concentration of calcium in such deposits, which can build up and become permanent features of the landscape.  It is not known precisely what function this serves the snail, aside from making the environment its own.44 

Numerous species of ants lay alerting trails, which signal their fellows to follow the same path.45  This is done by the depositing of chemical secretions that are perceived by scent.  Many mammals share this practice:

Hyenas leave especially pungent signposts.  Not only do they defecate   communally in special latrine areas, but they “paste.”  Special glands beneath the tail produce a powerfully smelling white substance.  When they reach the borders of their territory, they take a few steps with lowered hindquarters so that long grass passing between their back legs rubs against this gland and acquires a smell...  With a single sniff a hyena can perceive not only the here and now but, simultaneously, a whole series of events stretching back into the past.46 

Markings can be a mechanism for “seeing off” unwelcome intruders.  However, warning markers can backfire, for they inform possible predators of the presence and nature of the marking animals.  Scent and chemical markings enable animals to navigate quickly in total darkness: certain small rodents have scent glands in the soles of their feet for this purpose.47  Some secretions are not meant to be perceived, but to entrap: this is so in the case of spiders, whose sticky webs catch flies and other small beings for food. 

Height is an important quality for messages that are meant to be cast far and wide.  “Animals can signal over longer distances by elevating themselves above ground...The territorial songs of birds are usually delivered from a raised song post, which increases their effective range, while grassland birds such as meadowlarks sing as they fly.”48  Trees are very popular scent-posts (in an urban environment, a fire hydrant will do).  Trees also offer sites for nesting and for the laying and storing of eggs.

Animals marking territories need to be persistent, repeating their efforts again and again.  Why expend the effort to stake out and mark an area?  To mark an area can be to lay claim to it and its resources.  It has been carefully documented for many species of birds that: “1) only territory holders succeed in mating, 2) there is a surplus of individuals that do not hold a territory, and 3) mortality among the non-territorial birds is much higher than among territory holders.”49  Males with large territories are more successful in attracting females.  Females that deposit eggs in protected territories have greater reproductive success because fewer eggs are lost to predation (both by other males of the same species, and by animals of other species).50  In other words, having a place can improve one’s chances for long life and successful reproduction.

To be effective, a signal has to be stimulating, either through mimicking something a receiver already responds to in another context, or by being conspicuous in a broader sense by possessing those properties of movement, loudness, colour, and so on, that sensory systems in general have been evolved to pick up...Animals sometimes respond more strongly to exaggerated or supernormal versions of natural stimuli than they do to the natural stimuli  themselves, and it is therefore not surprising to find that many signals seem to create their effect through being supernormal in just this way.51 

Some animals’ signals remain on their bodies.  Fireflies, for example,

manufacture visual signals with the aid of photochemical equipment at the tip  of their abdomens...The specificity of the message is achieved through unique patterns of light pulses, which vary from species to species in duration, intensity, frequency of occurrence, and color.52 

Other animals’ secretions become their homes.  This is true of mollusks.  Terrestrial mollusks are capable of shell regeneration, creating calcified layers.53  (Many marine mollusks can also regenerate their shells, but the surrounding presence of water makes the process much slower.)  The barnacle is a mollusk which has been a great nuisance to humans: 

Barnacles foul ships and submerged portions of marine installations, such as pier pilings, oil platforms, floats, buoys, and mooring cables.  This causes drag and increased weight and may also increase corrosion of metals, even stainless steel.  Lines are commonly clogged by such fouling organisms...  The cement by  which barnacles attach themselves to the substratum sets under water and  even sticks to plastics.  It has been investigated because of its unusual  properties and possible use in dental applications.54 

Coral reefs are formed by animals that eventually die and thus desert their shells.  Coccoliths (shells) have accumulated in large numbers on the sea floor, forming chalk.  (The word Cretaceous means “chalk bearing.”)

Coccoliths are calcareous skeletons, a few thousandths of a millimetre in size, of single-celled micro-organisms of the marine plankton.  In late Cretaceous times (110m-65m years ago) they were so abundant in the seas that flooded much of western Europe that their skeletal remains piled up in layers hundreds of metres thick in places.  Now these white muds form the layers of chalk rock that stretch from Denmark through Normandy to the white cliffs of Dover and beyond.55 

Not all of the above examples are of display or territorial marking behaviors, but almost all of them involve secretion, deposit, lamination, accumulation, and aggregation of material on the surface of the physical environment, for a wide variety of purposes.  It is difficult to say if these purposes include celebration and the production of beauty, functions of decoration that are focused on elsewhere in this paper.

History of Mosaics

Mosaics flourished early in the East.  Chaldeans were skilled mosaicists by 2500 BC, at which time mosaics also existed in Ur and in Egypt.56

From the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, the art of mosaic reached Rome as part of a wave of Hellenistic luxury that, much to the vexation of the highly conservative Romans of the old school, put an end to the simplicity that  had been predominant both in private homes and public buildings during the Republic.57 

Mosaic, in the generally accepted sense of the word, is an invention of the Mediterranean peoples during the Classical era.  It first attained full stature in the Hellenistic period, i.e., between the conquests of Alexander the Great in 333-23 BC and the establishment of the Roman Empire under Augustus in 31 BC.  In the Roman period, from the reign of Augustus until the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, or approximately the first 500 years of the Christian era, mosaics of the utmost variety were spread over the whole empire, from Syria in the east to Spain in the west, from Africa in the south to Britain in the north.58

Signatures on mosaics seem to indicate that there were traveling teams of mosaicists who had the whole empire as their field of action.59  Mosaic became a favorite artform of the Roman Empire: there may be a sympathetic relationship between empire and mosaic, as both involve the orchestrating of many small pieces to form an unified whole. 

Throughout the Roman Empire, outdoor mosaics were created in courtyards, gardens, and temple complexes.  Floor mosaics (indoor and outdoor) are almost the only ones to survive from the pre-Christian era, due to the durableness of the materials and the ground itself.  Floor mosaics were composed of “tesserae,” which are cube-shaped pieces of natural stone, such as marble.  Mosaics on walls and ceilings--which have for the most part crumbled along with the surfaces on which they were composed--were usually made of colored glass, often covered with gold leaf or other substances.60

The specialty of Sosos of Perganon was the so-called “asaroton mosaic” (asaroton means “unswept floor”).  In a very lifelike manner, Sosos represented in floor mosaics all kinds of scraps left over from a meal: lobsterclaws, fishbones, nutshells, and fruit peelings.61 

A favorite medium of public art in Ancient Greece was sculpture of the human body, which was presented in idealized physical beauty.  This was increased to a monumental scale in Imperial Rome, where the production of awe towards the state’s gods and heroes was the goal. 

Classical antiquity presents the deity as an object in space.  In the early Christian era the divine image in bodily form largely disappears, and the space itself, and the surfaces that surround and enclose the sacred cult, become divine, through the application of two-dimensional art such as mosaics and frescoes.62  The change was from the human-centered exuberant outward-looking attitude of Classical antiquity, to the transcendental inward-looking attitude of the Middle Ages.63  The corresponding shift in the ideals of art was from the imitation of nature, to the presentation of symbols and abstract designs meant to stimulate contemplation.64 

In Classical times, many had seen mosaics as a painting in stone.  By the Middle Ages, mosaic had developed into an independent artform, often employing larger stones, which were set so as to reflect light at different angles.  In the inner and outer walls of many cathedrals, “the daylight, or the light of flaming torches is transformed by the mosaics into something supernatural, refracted and reflected by thousands of separate flashing surfaces.”65

“The whole universe as a divine creation was embodied in a Medieval building, as well as in the images that embellished it.”66 :

Decoration of public buildings [was] the highest from of popular art...a town hall or church was no bad equivalent for a public library stored with legends and symbols--histories as they were, which impressed themselves upon the unlettered, through the vivid language of design.67

This illustration and decoration was accompanied by the introduction, at least in certain places, of new mosaic materials: 

The early Middle Ages...was the age par excellence of precious stones.  It was during this period that precious and semi-precious stones, the whole splendor of oriental gems, were introduced to the west.  They were used to embellish ceremonial robes as well as sacred objects, altars, thrones, icons, etc., and from there spread throughout the whole sacred building.68

The popularity of richly-ornamented public buildings and spaces would continue until Protestant times. 

Public Art

The goal of creating a “New Jerusalem” has proved elusive.69 

Down through the Middle Ages, poets and painters dreamed of the “city beautiful.”  Greek philosophers drew inspiration from the measure of Athens’ attainment of it; barbaric Nero sought to realize it; the Irish Gaelic poets sang  of it; and the inspired apostle transcribed his vision in its terms.  As each dawn with its golden radiance has transformed cities, there has been a dream, a sigh, a reaching forth, with civic art the goal.70 

The city of the European Enlightenment era was planned as a unified statement of power: its planners did their best “to exclude the dirt of those facets of everyday life which were deemed inconvenient--including the the vagrant and the insane.”71  The rise of Protestantism was accompanied by an iconoclasm which saw embellishment as decadent and pernicious.72  Satisfaction was taken in the idea of “Man’s rational mind imposing itself on the chaos of nature.”73 

There have been many counter-movements to revive and develop embellishment in public space, as, for example, in Victorian architecture of the nineteenth century. 
This particular counter-movement has been described in the following terms:

As Nature retreated in the face of the combined forces of Industry, Commerce, and Science, Art came to her rescue.  Ornament and decoration were part of the conscious search for beauty in art, an art that supplemented nature and even surpassed it.  In this way, the Victorians hoped to counteract the destructive influence of industrialization.74

Here we see the Romantic notion of art serving as an agent of, or replacement for, nature.  And indeed, this has been a recurring motif in the discussion of urban design over the last two centuries.  It is interesting to note that while much Victorian architectural decoration was machine-made and mass-produced, it nonetheless provided a satisfying sense of identity and individuality to its proponents.75 

The preservation or insertion of pockets of artfully designed nature in  urban areas was one of the central goals of the great American urban designer, Frederick Olmstead.76  The deployment of nature and art has been seen as a charitable gift 
to the otherwise overwhelmed citydweller: 

The love of nature, the lately-aroused consciousness of what may be called  sentiment for landscape, brings vegetation into the busy city to soften and brighten; and the spirit of practical philanthropy locates playgrounds, builds schools, and insists that modern civic art shall permeate all quarters of the town, remodeling alleys as well as avenues.77

The discourse of nature and art has at times also included the divine: “Let our cities be spacious, well-paved and clean, with the touch of God’s fingers in open space, park, and street.”78

However, the rise of the nation-state and then the corporation called for monumental, awe-inspiring architecture: “Unity of sentiment, solemnity, and splendor...should be the dominant qualities in the artistic expression of great public buildings.”79  A “corporate style...conveys an aesthetics of uniformity, conformity, anonymity, and order.  Control and power are coded in these monumental structures.”80  What this means, in the words of Native-American critic Jimmie Durham, is that cities built in this style “establish themselves against their environment.  The USA is a political/cultural construction against the American continent.”81 

The overriding aesthetic development in modern urban design has been that of bare simplicity, efficiency, and functionality:

The Modern Movement (or movements) in architecture, epitomized by the  writings of Le Corbusier...and the work of the Bauhaus together with the much-criticized post-Second World War city developments in Europe, collectively reflect a time when ornament and decoration in architecture was eschewed.82

For more than half a century we have been committed to modern architecture  with its clean, uncluttered lines, stripped of ornament, and the regular forms derived naturally and economically from the technological possibilities of mass  production.83

The result, from some perspectives, is visual monotony.  “The outcome of this idea of functional architecture is to treat people like machines.”84 

The obstinate fact is that the public has never liked this kind of architecture  and consciously or otherwise they regard the bleak, anonymous environment it so often produces with a hostility that expresses itself in vandalism and neglect.85

Vandalism may be seen as an attempt to give life to a sterile environment.   In fact, almost every criminal act is an act of violence not just against the particular victim (if there is one), but also against society as a whole, and is, in a sense, an expression of frustration over having been excluded, of having no way to join the public sphere except by committing some sensational sadistic and intrusive act, for which one may then be written up in the tabloids. 

As Lewis Mumford wrote 40 years ago,

To correct the deficiencies of our over-mechanized civilization, we  shall have to build up a multi-centered system of control, with a sufficient development of morality, intelligence, and self-respect to be able to arrest the automatic processes--mechanical, bureaucratic, organizational--at any point where human life is in danger or the human personality is threatened with loss of values and choices.86

A number of specific experiments to this end have been proposed and attempted.  They all revolve around a revival of active citizen involvement in the public sphere.  Decorative activity is only one of the forms this involvement may take.  The balance of this section reviews some of these experiments and proposals and compares and contrasts them with Jim Power’s East Village mosaic work.  I will briefly discuss these issues under the following four headings:

a) Types of public art.
b) Public art in neighborhoods.
c) Issues of control, and the relationship between the artist and the community.
d) The balance between order and disorder.

a) Types of public art.

There are many types of public art.  To begin with, there are stand-alone structures such as monuments and towers.

Towers symbolize the existence of human achievement, the triumph over earthly matters.  Without doubt, every tower has a monumental character, as it rises above the environment.  A monument is first and foremost a sign of power.87 

One example of towers as public art are the Watts Towers in Los Angeles.  These towers were created by the Italian immigrant Simon Rodia between 1921 and 1955.  Mr. Rodia was a construction worker by day, and builder of an alternative city at night.  He constructed his towers on his own property, which was surrounded by a fence. 

While monuments tend to be the results of complex social processes (including  design competitions, political maneuvering, community approval, massive fund- raising, and endless compromises), the marker offers a small-scale, subtler, and potentially subversive way of recalling the history of a place.88 

Mr. Rodia’s work has in common with Jim’s that the work was undertaken without prior public approval.  In the case of the Watts Towers, the city of Los Angeles has now officially approved the Towers and is overseeing their renovation. 

Although the mosaics that decorate the bases of the Watts Towers is somewhat similar to Jim’s mosaics, the contexts are extremely dissimilar.  Jim’s mosaic work is mostly on the street.  It breathes with the neighborhood, very much like the NYU campus a few blocks to the west.  The sharing of the streets, and the fact that pedestrian culture is still dominant, is a great glory of New York City, especially Manhattan.  In California, in contrast, a person tends to stay in his car and home, and on his property, until he can escape to nature.

Jim’s lamppost and storefront work is opportunistic: it adds onto that which is already there.  As such it is place-specific and site-specific:

Place-specific public art...reveals new depths of a place to engage the viewer or inhabitant, rather than abstracting that place into generalizations that apply just as well to any other place.  Place-specific art would have an organic connection to its locale and cannot be looked at primarily as an object outside of the viewer/inhabitant’s life.  It must take root outside of conventional   venues and would not be accessible only to those in the know, enticed by publicity and fashion.  It should become at least temporarily part of, or a criticism of, the built environment, making places mean more to those who live or spend time there.89 

Site-specific art conforms to the topographic details of the ground on which the work rests and/or to the components of its immediate natural or built  environment.90

Another type of public art is graffiti.  Graffiti, by its very nature, defaces property and is illegal.  It often consists of the spelling out of the artist’s name.  Jim’s mosaic work, by contrast, does not seem to aim to transgress the law: it only does so occasionally.  Jim’s lettering points out streets, shops, and famous figures; I do not recall seeing his name spelled out in any of his mosaics.

In Berkeley some years ago, the tops of hundreds of parking meters were sawed off overnight and replaced with flowers.  This was a destructive type of public art that was destined to be short-lived: the parking meters were soon replaced.

The 1983 ribbon-around-the Pentagon project was a one-time political demonstration against the stockpiling of nuclear weapons.  This effort demonstrated the connection between festive decoration and political power: the very fact that the organizers could mobilize and bring together tens of thousands of participants from all over the country alerted politicians to the depth of anti-nuclear sentiment. 

Cristo’s wrappings of buildings and bridges are temporary publicity stunts, conceptual art projects that have little relationship with or lasting effect on the chosen sites.  Another example of public modern art are the steel sculptures that embellish many urban developments. 

Those that are shiny reflect the utopian gleam of development; those that are rusty affirm the otherness of art.  Both kinds lend acceptability to development which is anti-social in that it destroys the patterns of socialization through which a neighborhood has been livable.91

The mention of rusty metal may be reference to Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc,” which was finally removed from a public square in downtown Manhattan after great public outcry: it seems that people did not want to face on a daily basis this statement of alienation, which is how many interpreted the sculpture.  (Another reason “Tilted Arc” was resented was that it prevented people from walking directly across the space.)

“Public art has generally been meant to put us in awe of the power of our government or the power of corporate sponsorship.”92  In contrast, Jim’s mosaic work puts one in awe of what one individual can do.  Actually, Jim’s work is difficult to even pin down and label as art: it includes utilitarian public signage (announcing streets, avenues, and landmarks) and advertising for businesses, as well as pure decoration on public surfaces.  It is difficult to pin down what its function and legal status is in its various locations: here it has been commissioned by a local business, here it has repaired a hole in the sidewalk, here it has covered state-owned property in a pleasing manner--in one case, as mentioned, with a salute to the NYPD and three of its officers, honoring their presence as valued members of the community, a gesture that surely has not hurt the chances of the mosaics’ survival.  In fact, with much of the mosaics, Jim has acted as a self-appointed city worker, including tour guide.

Suzi Gablik, author of The Reenchantment of Art, writes of “the Cartesian dualism that isolates an autonomous intellectual self from a world which becomes a value-free ground on which fantasies of a world can be inscribed”(93)--but this is not the case with Jim and his work: he is a member of the neighborhood that he is decorating and which he obviously loves and identifies with very much.

b) Public art in neighborhoods.

One role that Jim’s mosaics play is to unify the walls, sidewalks, storefront interiors, and lampposts of the neighborhood.  From the sidewalk to the sky, there are mosaics.  This is not obvious, as there are truly not that many mosaics in the neighborhood.  In fact, one reason why the citizens and the authorities have permitted the mosaics to remain is that Jim knew when to stop, so as to prevent his work from becoming too insistent and noticeable.  Nonetheless, the subliminal effect of continuity is there, both horizontally and vertically.

As mentioned, these mosaics lend a style and identity to the neighborhood.  Many designers have pointed out the need for visual themes, to help one orient oneself in a city.94 

Jim’s Mosaic Trail is somewhat akin to the “history trails” that have appeared in American cities in the last decade.95  These trails lead visitors to valued local sites, where historical--and sometimes legendary and mythical--are claimed to have taken place. 

Public decorations are a “witness to the values of the people that live in that area”96:

The decoration of the city can act as a collective symbol, something that  stands for a town and with which the citizens identify... represent collective identity, signify place, and make places distinct from each other: it testifies that a group of people share a place and timer, as well as operate in close proximity and with a good deal of interdependence.97 

Perhaps most common in festive decoration of neighborhoods are temporary decorations.  Of course, many Americans decorate their home facades with Christmas decorations and lights.  When Americans were taken hostage in Iran, all of America in a sense became one neighborhood, marked with yellow ribbons.  “Ornament and decoration...have the power to unleash feelings, trigger reactions, feed the memory, and stimulate the imagination.”98  This was one of those times

when a popular emotion sweeps over a town and so stirs it that the very house-fronts bear emblems and the business streets lose their matter-of-factness in passionate portrayal of feeling.99

Many property-owners and renters take great pride in their decorations.  Numerous cities in Europe--such as Paris and Brussels--hold regular competitions for best decorations of homes and businesses. 

Interpersonal relations in cities, Wirth asserts...tend to be utilitarian, competitive, and exploitive, characteristics that are intensified by the absence of the personal and emotional controls of intimate groups.  Regulation by formal controls replaces solidarity, sentimental ties, and control through custom.100

Public art then--especially decoration, and especially when people do it in coordination with each other--may provide a method for overcoming the sense of aloneness often produced by urban life.

c) Issues of control, and the relationship between the artist and the community

“Public art isn’t a hero on a horse anymore.”101

This statement refers to the fact that many people in neighborhoods do not want to be subject to a top-down process directed by hero-designers and bureaucrats.  Such people want a leading say in how their locale is to be decorated.

Current structures of art management and funding are closely linked to the structures of power and value of late capitalism and have fostered conventional public art as complicit in socially divisive urban development.102

However, an irony here is that in the East Village, Jim Power has acted exactly as a hero on a horse.  He did not wait for support from a patron, nor for grants or commissions from municipal art societies: he solicited job offers for the advertising work, and he just did the public work on his own.  Community members and the authorities have had the chance to review his plans and products after the fact: and thirteen years later, the work remains.  As mentioned above, this process has succeeded only due to a series of unique circumstances, including the talent and sense of appropriateness of the artist (including brilliant choice of materials), and the artistic and adventurousness nature of the neighborhood.  What this situation supports, however, is the saying that art, even folk art, “is not made by committee.”

In the late 60s and early 70s, many artists rejected the commodity status of art through happenings or becoming community artworkers.  However, most did not want to sink to the working-class level and make signs for businesses (commodities to sell commodities): they for the most part wanted to receive funding from neighborhood and art agencies, which meant a cumbersome process of getting plans approved.  Although Jim is well-aware of the artworld, he is not at all of the gallery and dealer scene: if people want him to make a table for them, they must seek him out.  Jim is of working-class Irish descent, and is proud to be a Vietnam veteran.  He did not need a public-art-related club, federation, or society to act as a bridge between artists and the public, for he is a member of both groups.103  He is a working-class person as well as a professional artist, and as such he is living testimony to the artificial dichotomy between these two worlds. 

As Jim was repairing a lamppost mosaic the other day, a number of people stopped by to chat and place a piece of tile on the post.  At one point, Jim called out to a passing friend, also of Irish descent, to stop for a moment and put onto the lamppost a “customary” piece.  I am not sure if this is exactly the word that Jim meant to use, but it seemed fitting, and reminded me of people in a pub having a customary pint together.  The artist in this instance was acting as facilitator for others in the neighborhood, enabling them to partake in a common creative and traditional act.

e) The balance between order and disorder.

The capacity to dream and considered indispensable for mental health, so, likewise, exposure to to these objectified dreams and fantasies which are thrown up by celebrating enthusiasm may be necessary for social health.104

The new paradigm of the “self-sustaining” city incorporates a certain degree of disorder.105  This paradigm posits that a limited amount of chaos is enjoyable, as in, for example, the hand-placed decorations on a Christmas tree.  But even if it is accepted that access to such zones is necessary for the mental health of individuals and communities, that people need to be able to escape to somewhere to be themselves, or to try out being someone else...  Even if this is accepted, is it really possible to plan--on a largescale, institutional basis--pockets of freedom, anonymity, reversal?  Tradition, artists, and grass-roots elements of society need to be called upon for guidance in this quixotic and paradoxical effort. 

In architecture, public art, and other fields, the correct balance between complexity and repose is the key to beauty: ”Aesthetic success is conditional upon the victory of order, but there has to be sufficient complexity to make the victory worthwhile.”106 

A dynamic tension...percolates through everyday social life as well as these rites.  [Victor Turner’s] breakthrough...was in recognizing the cultural importance of the active representation of the disordering forces of a culture, both in everyday life and in the largescale expressive traditions.107 

Commenting on diversity in today’s cities, Richard Sennett sees the free appropriation of spaces for unplanned part of the attraction of urban life.108  What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people (109), together with the presence of a combination of free and commodified festive objects and activities, which can function to help people initiate and develop relationships with each other.  The paramount and delicate task of the police and city officials is to permit the festive atmosphere, while not giving too much license, for public safety must always remain a top, perhaps the top, priority. 

A new model of public art celebrates the public’s diversity and does not seek to impose a monolithic perfection...  Art can be seen as a social process...intervening in the public interest, transgressing the boundaries of public and domestic spaces.110

Jim’s mosaic work is at once raw enough to convey the feeling of freedom, and ordered, contained enough to promote business (demonstrating competence and reliability) and civic togetherness. 

The Future

Will the bright colors and shiny surfaces of Jim’s lamppost mosaics, like fireworks, disappear?  I recall once mentioning to my friend Lincoln that I particularly liked the graffiti painting of an antelope on the wall across the street from his storefront home on East 4th St.  He replied wistfully that it is the nature of our neighborhood that images come and go.  Lincoln, who was physically disabled, died some years ago when he was unable to crawl out of his apartment in part because the regular entrance was blocked due to efforts to evict him and renovate the building.

Although people may not be consciously aware of it, all know that it is illegal to put anything on a lamppost and that this mosaic work could be stripped away at any moment.  The city showed how serious and effective it could be by eradicating subway train graffiti virtually overnight in 1989: it simply purchased a new set of trains and cut off entry to the trainyards.  There is now on the street an army of uniformed welfare recipients who have to work a certain number of hours per week.  These people could easily be assigned to scrape the lampposts clean.  Thus, the lamppost mosaic public art presents a drama, a tension between permanence and fleetingness: it is a drama to which many longterm East Village residents can relate, for the unsanctioned mosaics on public surfaces are similar to their own precarious and poignant existences.  Many in this neighborhood live, at least in part, on monthly electronic deposits of SSI or SSD money (physical or mental disability) or some other government benefits, and there is an increasing possibility of such benefits being discontinued.  Many are harassed by landlords who wish they would move out so that renovations could be made and rent could be radically increased.

How can an illegal act be promulgated as an international symbol of neighborhood and community?  There are instances where a community practice is illegal and yet continues to thrive: for instance, cockfighting in Bali and elsewhere.  But fighting cocks can be hidden: lamppost mosaics on Ave. A are utterly, pathetically vulnerable.

There are some things that when brought to the attention of the authorities, the authorities have little choice but to act upon in a repressive manner, even if they would prefer not to.  Some conflicts cannot be solved satisfactorily, so it is best to avoid them.  Might it be possible to grant landmark status to that which is there, while saying that future work would need to be approved in advance.  I am not sure that Jim or others would agree to such conditions, even if they could somehow be offered. 

It would be wonderful if the mosaic lampposts could be awarded landmark status, but I can’t really conceive of it being possible.  It is seemingly an impossible precedent for the city to allow.  There is much to be lost, and little to be gained by forcing the issue with the authorities at present--or even by bringing it to their attention.  My sense is that the local police are doing their best to look the other way.  So it is probably best to simply continue as is, living with and appreciating the lamppost mosaics from day to day, with no security or guarantee of what will come tomorrow.

Is festivity necessarily antithetical to order?  Perhaps festivity enables order, by providing an outlet for wild emotion.  Is it possible that less repression would be necessary if people were able to express themselves more freely?  While many leaders of festivities are consumed by it all, others are leading artists, thinkers, conversationalists, and entrepreneurs in the community.  In any event, the fame and wealth of the East Village is due to people like Jim, who are often master community-builders and promoters.  Jim’s unsanctioned mosaic lampposts, for example, have surely contributed to the neighborhood’s rising real estate values.

“New York is a summer festival” ran an add campaign a few years back.  Every night of the summer, Ave. A. is mobbed with visitors looking for something interesting.  Most will settle for going to a bar.  Hispanics, poor artists and musicians, self-fashioned leftists and rightists of various stripes, unique people with style, are being driven out, replaced by consumers, not producers, of East Village culture.  Every night of the summer, performers, masseuses, and crafts people could work all along Ave. A.  The park curfew of midnight and the crackdown on performance clubs have done much to curtail night activity, but still much more could be done.  People need to learn how to give performances and workshops on the street with a minimum of baggage and furniture, as police will tell people to move even temporary tables. 

As mentioned, on Ave. A between 7th St. and St. Marks Place is Ray’s newsstand and egg cream store, the anchor of the neighborhood.  Ray has operated this business since he purchased it from the previous operator thirty years ago.  People congregate in front of Ray’s 24-hours-a-day, but especially at night.  There are about a dozen regulars, all men.  It is shocking that the neighborhood may soon lose this store: Ray claims that the rent is being increased from $3,000 to $7,000 this coming July, and he will be forced to leave.  This would be devastating for the culture, economics, and safety of the neighborhood.  From the doorway of Ray’s, one can see three mosaic lampposts.  Even if Ray should decide to retire, we are hoping that the 24-hour store will somehow survive.

It seems that the tiny storefront is owned by Leshko’s restaurant next door, which stretches to the corner.  The recent remodeling of Leshko’s is ominous: the windows used to cover almost the whole front of the building; now the windows are smaller and there is a lot of blank wall.  Leshko’s used to be a neighborhood working-class-type place, of the culture of the Eastern European people who were the heart of the neighborhood for many years.  The breakfast special was $3.  Now it is a yuppie bar-restaurant.  Brunch is $8.  It is darker inside, and much brighter outside at night, which discourages people from standing around or sitting against the wall.  This is an excellent example of destruction of community public social space through excessive street lighting. 

The East Village is inexorably being cleaned up.  On its east side, near the River, in Alphabet City, there are still many Hispanic people.  The East Village has for many years been a mix of white (Ukrainian, Polish, etc.), Hispanic, black, etc.; upper class and working class.  The traditional border has been Ave. A.  Today Aves. B, C, and D, are increasingly filled with expensive French restaurants and clothing boutiques: the Soho-ization of the East Village is well under way.

Lately, a new type of object has appeared on the street scene: plastic stands that contain free “newspapers” and advertisements, and that are chained to lampposts.  These stands are a hazard and an inconvenience to pedestrians, for they block walking space.  They have nothing to do with the neighborhood, and clearly are only there because someone paid money to the city to allow them to be chained there.

In short, the goose that laid the golden egg is getting cooked.  The neighborhood is undergoing a cultural cleansing, which is slowly eroding the artistic nature that made it attractive in the first place.  But this is a universal process on the planet: if things are bad in the East Village, they are probably worse in other urban centers.  Chains of multinational stores are transforming every neighborhood.  This is not all bad, of course.  The East Village has two Kinko’s--many denizens appreciate the high quality photocopy and computer services, available 24 hours.  The photographs that accompany this paper are from the East Village’s K-Mart and Duane Reade stores: the one-time-use (recycled) cameras were purchased, and the 1-hour developing was done, at these places.  It is only high technology in large, expensive, well-maintained machines that can automatically develop photos in one hour.  Locals appreciate the availability of such services.  These modern facilities can help locals with their media projects; they can help locals communicate with, and make money from, the rest of the world.  I would only suggest that there should be some sort economic encouragement for locally-owned stores; and for partnerships of local stores and multi-national chains.  International chains stores should be required to hire local artisans, to take on local decor, to sell some local goods, and to give some local control.

Jim Power has lived in many locations in the East Village and has had numerous working studios.  At present, he is living in a limited space and does not have much of a studio, which means that it is only on the streets or on a job that he can do mosaic work.  This makes it difficult for him to make tables and plaques, and to take on assistants and students.  Jim likes to work with others: he has had a number of informal apprentices.  He would like to work with groups, but his nature is not conducive to working with bureaucracies.

Jim Power is also a video documentarian and artist.  He was one of the first in the neighborhood to own a camcorder with a large (4 inch) built-in screen.  He has for many years periodically submitted videotapes to Manhattan public access cable television.  And...Jim has been making websites since the early 90s.  His first websites revolved around his idea for an Ave. A Artists’ Association, which he continues to promote.  However, the website he is currently developing, and which he owns, is  His plan is for to eventually include an interactive map, a full list of neighborhood goods and services, and for it to enable access to and communication between neighborhood artists of all media.  He would charge shops a yearly fee for listings; facilitate art sales with visiting tourists and dealers.  The project has yet to make any money, but more and more people are asking to be involved and to help.  Jim’s electronic work goes hand-in-hand with his manual work.  In recent weeks Jim has been writing “” in chalk on the sidewalks of the East Village, in some cases adjacent to his mosaic work. 

Jim does not own a computer.  He uses the computers at the local cybercafe and at the very fine public library branch on Tenth St., between Aves. A and B.  Here one can have free internet access for 30 minutes at a time.  One of Jim’s long-range goals is to have such a facility, preferably in a storefront that would remain open 24-hours, which would include video equipment, with editing and special effects, so that video-audio could be streamed live 24-hours-a-day to  Operating this set-up would provide training and employment for people in the neighborhood--in terms of multimedia production, marketing services and goods, taking visitors on walking tours, bringing them to performances, introducing them to local artists, etc.  Jim has been talking for quite a while about wanting to give mosaic-making workshops via internet video.  In-the-flesh tourists and other visitors could be offered the opportunity to join in the work, for fun and/or profit.  In sum, such facilities would enable neighborhood members to organize many festive activities.

Activities in all media go hand-in-hand: each form of communication has its own advantages and difficulties.  The internet is no substitute for physical street presence and art.  Sometimes people talk with hope about the freedom and sociability of the internet because they feel they have lost these opportunities on the street.  It is also possible, incidentally, to combine the internet with street life: there could be large-screen displays in public and commercial spaces, indoors and out.  Transmitter-receivers could likewise be operated anywhere in the neighborhood.  All could be portable.

The excitement of festive togetherness increases as outsiders visit, and as people return for a reunion with each other, the neighborhood, and the things it represents to them.  Consumer-celebrants, by their very presence, contribute to that which is being consumed-celebrated: they become part of the spectacle they have come to watch.  This process works with in-the-flesh and electronically-mediated participants.  The most successful aspect of so far is the guestbook: at least once or twice a day someone leaves a typed message on a scroll for all others to read.  It is almost like putting a piece of tile in a mosaic.  Actually, Jim has been talking about enabling people online to make mosaics together.  A television or computer screen is after all nothing but a constantly-changing electronic mosaic, usually consisting of at least 400 pixels (picture elements) horizontally and 300 pixels vertically).

The East Village presents a festive environment for people of the world to visit, partake of.  But the East Village level of restlessness, of soul-searching, of living on the edge, can be relentless and disturbing.  Even today, around Thompkins Square park one can hardly avoid seeing people sacrificing their bodies on some sort of vision quest.  People tend to behave intensely, expressively, even theatrically, and with abandon (although often with a calculated sense of display).  There is also a great deal of humor.  People of all races and sexual orientations socialize very easily and openly in the East Village.  This is all normal for people in the neighborhood, but to many others, the East Village is “a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”  The fact is, the goal of most people in the world is to be able to go to work, then relax, unwind, and calm down.  People generally want to go along and get along; they want to avoid rocking the boat.

The East Village is is a center of marginality, a shrine to art and self-expression, whether it is accessed face-to-face or through electronic mediation.  Both types of visitors will be able to select to observe and participate with what they like, to the degree of intensity that they like.  The East Village, like any other place, is finally a state of mind and a style of communication as much as a physical locale.  If Jim Power can help it, East Village culture, including his mosaic work, will continue to be available to whatever individuals desire it, wherever there is a market.


1)  Victor Turner, “Introduction,” in Celebration, Studies in Festivity and Ritual, Victor Turner, ed., Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982, p. 7.

2)  Alessandro Falassi, “Festival, Definition and Morphology,” in Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival, Alessandro Falassi, ed., Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico Press, 1987, p. 2. 

3)  Falassi, p. 3.

4)  Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, Ithaca, NY: Cornell U. Press, 1986, p. 9.

5)  Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “The Future of Folklore Studies in America: The Urban Frontier,” Folklore Forum16 (1983), p. 215.

6)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 193.

7)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 183.

8)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 190.

9)  Lucy R. Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, NY: New Press, 1997, p. 249.

10)  William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act II, scene 1.

11)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 179.

12)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 222. 

13)  Nancy D. Munn, “Symbolism in a Ritual Context: Aspects of Symbolic Action,” in Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology, John J. Honigmann, ed., Chicago: Rand McNally and Co., 1973, p. 582.

14)  Louis Wirth, On Cities and Social Life: Selected Papers, Albert J. Reiss, Jr., ed., Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1964, p. 74.

15)  Lewis Mumford, The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961, p. 546.

16)   Roger D. Abrahams, “Ordinary and Extraordinary Experience,” in The Anthropology of Experience, Victor W. Turner and Jerome Bruner, eds.  Urbana and Champaign: U. of Illinois Press, 1986, p. 65. 

17)     Julian Barnard, The Decorative Tradition, London: Architectural Press, 1993, p. 73. 

18)  Nancy D. Munn, Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representation and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society, Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1973. p. 164.

19)  Abrahams, 1986, p. 180.

20)  Roger D. Abrahams, “The Discovery of Marketplace Culture,” Intellectual History Newsletter,April 1988, p. 28.

21)  Barbara Babcock, “Too Many, Too Few: Ritual Modes of Signification,” Semiotica23(1978):3/4, p. 296.

22)  Roger D. Abrahams, “An American Vocabulary of Celebrations,” in Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival, Alessandro Falassi, ed., Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico Press, 1987, p. 180. 

23)  Abrahams, 1987, p. 180.

24)  Abrahams, 1987, p. 181.

25)  Prince Ilango Adigal, Shilappadikaram (The Ankle Bracelet), translated (from the Tamil) by Alain Danielou, NY: New Directions Books, 1965, p. 22.

26)  Adigal, p. 5.

27)  Turner, 1982, p. 7.

28)  Victor Turner and Edith Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, NY: Columbia U. Press, 1978, p. 5.

29)  Turner, 1978, p. 6. 

30)  Turner, 1978, p. 5.

31)  Alan Morinis, “Introduction,” in Sacred Journeys: the Anthropology of Pilgrimage, Alan Morinis, ed., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, p. 3.

32)  Turner, 1978, p. 7.

33)  Erik Cohen, “Pilgrimage and Tourism: Convergence and Divergence,” in Sacred Journeys: the Anthropology of Pilgrimage, Alan Morinis, ed., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, p. 52.

34)  Turner, 1978, p. 8.

35)   Henry Frederic Reddall, Fact, Fancy, and Fable, a New Handbook for Ready Reference on Subjects Commonly Omitted from Cyclopaedias; Comprising Personal Sobriquets, Familiar Phrases, Popular Appellations, Geographical Nicknames, Literary Pseudonyms, Mythological Characters, Red-letter Days, Political Slang, Contractions and Abbreviations, Technical Terms, Foreign Words and Phrases, Americanisms, etc., Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1889, p. 63.

36)  Roger D. Abrahams, 1988, p. 27.

37)  Roger D. Abrahams, “The Marketplace Experience and Festive Play,” unpublished manuscript, no date, p. 31.

38)   Charles Mulford Robinson, Modern Civic Art: The City Made Beautiful, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1918, p. 76

39)  Robinson, p. 373.

40)  Barnard, p. 135. 

41)  Abrahams,  no date, p. 9.

42)  Abrahams, 1988, p. 26.

43)  Abrahams, 1988, p. 27.

44)  Mark S. Davies and Susan J. Hutchinson, “Crystalline Calcium in Littorinid Mucus Trails,” Hydrobiologia309(1-3), 1995, p. 120.

45)  David McFarland, Animal Behaviour: Psychobiology, Ethology, and Evolution, 2nd ed., NY: Wiley, 1993, p. 392.

46)  David Attenborough, The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Animal Behavior, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1990, p. 111.

47)  Attenborough, p. 111. 

48)  Aubrey Manning and Marian Stamp Dawkins, An Introduction to Animal Behavior.  Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1998, p. 164.

49)  John Alcock, Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach, Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1998, p. 291.

50)  Alcock, p. 93. 

51)  Manning,  p. 169.

52)  McFarland, p. 385.

53)  Norimitsu Watabe, “Shell Repair,” in The Molluska, Vol. 4, A.S.M. Saleuddin, ed., NY: Academic Press, 1983, p. 293.

54)  A. O. Christie and R. Dalley, “Barnacle Fouling and Its Prevention,” in Barnacle Biology, Alan J. Southward, ed., Rotterdam, A. A. Balkema, 1987, p. 421.

55)   Financial Times, “Identifying Chalk Fossils,” 1/13/00,

56)  Ferdinando Rossi, Mosaics, a Survey of Their History and Techniques, translated (from the Italian) by David Ross, NY: Praeger, 1970, p. 12.

57)  Hans Peter L’Orange, Mosaics, translated (from the Norwegian) by Ann E. Keep, London: Methuen, 1966, p. 35.

58)  L’Orange, p. 7.

59)  L’Orange, p. 38.

60)  L’Orange, p. 7.

61)  L’Orange, p. 37.

62)  L’Orange, p. 4.

63)  L’Orange, p. 5.

64)  L’Orange, p. 8.

65)  L’Orange, p. 10.

66)  Barnard, p. 4.

67)  Walter Crane, “On the Decoration of Public Buildings,” in Art and Life, and the Building and Decoration of Cities: a Series of Lectures by Members of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, Delivered at the Fifth Exhibition of the Society in 1896, London: Rivington, Percival, 1897, p. 138.

68)  L’Orange, p. 9.

69)  Robinson, p. 263.

70)  Robinson, p. 27.

71)  Malcolm Miles, Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures, London: Routledge, 1997, 
p. 190.

72)  Cliff Moughtin, Tanner Oc, and Steven Tiesdell, Urban Design: Ornament and Decoration, Oxford: Architectural Press, 1999, p. 3. 

73)  Barnard, p. 9.

74)  Barnard, p. 18.

75)  Barnard, p. 40.

76)  Lippard, p. 250. 

77)  Robinson, p. 13.

78)  Robinson, p. 6.

79)  Crane, p. 133.

80)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 191. 

81)  Jimmie Durham, as cited in Lippard, p. 198.

82)  Moughtin, p. 3. 

83)  Barnard, p. 7. 

84)  Barnard, p. 11.

85)  Barnard, p. 7. 

86)  Mumford, p. 555.

87)  Moughtin, p. 22.

88)  Lippard, p. 110.

89)  Lippard, p.  263.

90)  Lippard, p. 274.

91)  Miles, p. 189.

92)  Judy Baca, as cited in Lippard, p. 265.

93)  Miles, p. 189.

94)  Kevin  Lynch, The Image of the City, Cambridge, MA: Technology Press, 1960, p. 10.

95)  Lippard, p. 111.

96)  Barnard, p. 131.

97)  Moughtin, p. 14.

98)  Moughtin, p. 3.

99)  Robinson, 357.

100)  Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, p. 181. 

101)  Raven, as cited in Miles, p. 167.

102)  Miles, p. 205.

103)  Robinson, p. 263.

104)  Turner, 1982, p. 13.

105)  Richard Sennet, The Uses of Disorder, London: Faber, 1996, p. 17.

106)  Moughtin, p. 10.

107)  Abrahams, 1988, p. 26.

108)  Richard  Sennett, The Conscience of the Eye: the Design and Social Life of Cities, NY: Knopf, 1990, p. 128.

109)  Miles, p. 197.

110)  Miles, p. 189.


Abrahams, Roger D. and Richard Bauman.  “Ranges of Festival Behavior.”  In The Reversible World: Symbolic Inversion in Art and Society, Barbara A. Babcock, ed.  Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1978: pp. 193-208.

Abrahams, Roger D.  “Ordinary and Extraordinary Experience.”  In The Anthropology of Experience, Victor W. Turner and Jerome Bruner, eds.  Urbana and Champaign: U. of Illinois Press, 1986: pp. 45-72.

Roger D. Abrahams.  “An American Vocabulary of Celebrations.”  In Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival, Alessandro Falassi, ed.  Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico Press, 1987: pp. 175-183.

Abrahams, Roger D.  “The Discovery of Marketplace Culture.” Intellectual History Newsletter,April 1988: pp. 23-32.

Abrahams, Roger D.  “The Marketplace Experience and Festive Play.”  Unpublished manuscript, no date: pp. 1-31.

Adigal, Prince Ilango.  Shilappadikaram (The Ankle Bracelet).  Translated (from the Tamil) by Alain Danielou.  NY: New Directions Books, 1965.

Alcock, John.  Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach.  Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1998.

Attenborough, David.  The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Animal Behavior.  Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1990.

Babcock, Barbara.  “Too Many, Too Few: Ritual Modes of Signification.” Semiotica 23:3/4, 1978: pp. 291-302.

Barnard, Julian.  The Decorative Tradition.  London: Architectural Press, 1993.

Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham.  Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Giving the Derivation, Source, or Origin of Common Phrases, Allusions, and Words that have a Tale to Tell.  NY: Cassell Pub. Co., 1880. 

Christie, A. O., and R. Dalley, “Barnacle Fouling and Its Prevention.”  In Barnacle Biology, Alan J. Southward, ed., Rotterdam, A. A. Balkema, 1987: pp. 419-434.

Cohen, Erik.  “Pilgrimage and Tourism: Convergence adn Divergence.”  In Sacred Journeys: the Anthropology of Pilgrimage, Alan Morinis, ed., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992: pp. 47-61.

Crane, Walter.  “On the Decoration of Public Buildings.”  In Art and Life, and the Building and Decoration of Cities: a Series of Lectures by Members of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, Delivered at the Fifth Exhibition of the Society in 1896.  London: Rivington, Percival, 1897: pp. 138-172.

Davies, Mark S. and Susan J. Hutchinson.  “Crystalline Calcium in Littorinid Mucus Trails.”  Hydrobiologia309(1-3), 1995: pp. 117-21.

Falassi, Alessandro.  “Festival, Definition and Morphology.”  In Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival, Alessandro Falassi, ed.  Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico Press, 1987: pp. 1-10.

Financial Times.  “Identifying Chalk Fossils.”  1/13/00.

Gablik, Suzi.  The Reenchantment of Art.  London: Thames and Hudson, 1991.

Hegemann, Werner and Elbert Peets.  The American Vitruvius: an Architects’ Handbook of Civic Art.  NY: Architectural Book Pub. Co., 1922.

Jacobs, Jane.  The Death and Life of Great American Cities.  NY: Vintage Books.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara.  “The Future of Folklore Studies in America: The Urban Frontier.”  Folklore Forum16 (1983): pp. 175-234.

Lippard, Lucy R.  The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society.  NY: New Press, 1997.

L’Orange, Hans Peter.  Mosaics.  Translated (from the Norwegian) by Ann E. Keep.  London: Methuen, 1966.

Lynch, Kevin.  The Image of the City.  Cambridge, MA: Technology Press, 1960.

Manning, Aubrey and Marian Stamp Dawkins.  An Introduction to Animal Behavior.  Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1998.

McFarland, David.  Animal Behaviour: Psychobiology, Ethology, and Evolution.  2nd ed.  NY: Wiley, 1993.

Miles, Malcolm.  Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures.  London: Routledge, 1997.

Morinis, Alan.  “Introduction.”  In Sacred Journeys: the Anthropology of Pilgrimage, Alan Morinis, ed.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992: p. 1-30.

Moughtin, Cliff, Tanner Oc, and Steven Tiesdell.  Urban Design: Ornament and Decoration.  Oxford: Architectural Press, 1999.

Mumford, Lewis.  The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects.  NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961.

Munn, Nancy D.  “Symbolism in a Ritual Context: Aspects of Symbolic Action.”  In Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology, John J. Honigmann, ed., Chicago: Rand McNally and Co., 1973: pp. 579-612.

Munn, Nancy D.  Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representation and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society.  Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1973.

Onsite Magazine, Issue #1, 1972.

Reddall, Henry Frederic.  Fact, Fancy, and Fable, a New Handbook for Ready Reference on Subjects Commonly Omitted from Cyclopaedias; Comprising Personal Sobriquets, Familiar Phrases, Popular Appellations, Geographical Nicknames, Literary Pseudonyms, Mythological Characters, Red-letter Days, Political Slang, Contractions and Abbreviations, Technical Terms, Foreign Words and Phrases, Americanisms, etc.  Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1889.

Robinson, Charles Mulford. Modern Civic Art: The City Made Beautiful.  NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1918.

Rossi, Ferdinando.  Mosaics, a Survey of Their History and Techniques.  Translated (from the Italian) by David Ross.  NY: Praeger, 1970.

Sennett, Richard.  The Conscience of the Eye: the Design and Social Life of Cities.
NY: Knopf, 1990.

Sennet, Richard.  The Uses of Disorder. London: Faber, 1996.

Shakespeare, William.  The Tempest.  London, First Folio, 1623.

Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White.  The Politics and Poetics of Transgression.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell U. Press, 1986.

Turner, Victor.  The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure.  Chicago, Aldine Pub. Co., 1969.

Turner, Victor.  “Introduction.”  In Celebration, Studies in Festivity and Ritual, Victor Turner, ed.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982.

Turner, Victor and Edith Turner.  Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives.  NY: Columbia U. Press, 1978.

Watabe, Norimitsu.  “Shell Repair.”  In The Molluska, Vol. 4, A.S.M. Saleuddin, ed.  NY: Academic Press, 1983: pp. 289-315.

Wirth, Louis.  On Cities and Social Life: Selected Papers.  Albert J. Reiss, Jr.. ed.  Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1964. 


He tells stories,
stories of broken glass and fast colors.
He tells them on the walls of the Lower East Side,
up and down the lampposts on Saint Marks Place.
He sees them through the eyes of Jerry Garcia
on Seventh and A,
a corner with history.
He tells tales of the city
while it was still pretty,
they turned it into Singapore --
and clean.

-  Anne Lombardo Ardolino, copyright 1995.
   Posted in the the guestbook of, May 03, 2000.