Muralist Ernest Shaw takes inspiration from his kids and love for Baltimore – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Ernest Shaw’s Continuous Line exhibit runs through Easter at the World Trade Center’s Top-of-the-World Observation Deck in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Shaw’s exhibited art “examines the unbroken connection between the traditional culture of continental Africa and Africans scattered in the diaspora”.

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Shaw, 52, grew up in West Baltimore. He spent the first seven years of his life in a two-bedroom apartment in the recently demolished Carver Apartments on Division Street before moving to Edmondson Village.

“I’ve watched these walls since I was a little boy,” Shaw said, glancing at the two-part Unity mural that divided North Avenue and Park Avenue. “I designed them as one piece.”

Shaw has painted more than a dozen murals in Baltimore City, most of them in West Baltimore.

“I want the people who live there, who are often stereotyped because of this plague, to experience something beautiful,” Shaw said. “What I do, I don’t do for myself. I do it to make a very small contribution to making this world a better place. Especially Baltimore.”

He says his main subject is his daughter Asya, who is now 26 but is often portrayed as a child. Her likeness can be seen on the new Unity mural as well as the painting on the side of the Arch Social Club in Penn and North.

“When my daughter was born, I knew what unconditional love felt like,” Shaw said. “Becoming a parent has helped me think about my audience because now I’m in a situation where I have to think about someone else for the rest of my life.”

He has also painted his son Taj, who is featured in a 2008 mural on the corner of Lakewood Avenue and McElderry Street in East Baltimore.

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“I was mentally, spiritually and emotionally unfit to actually tackle a project like this,” Shaw told the McElderry Street mural.

Taj died in 2008 after being diagnosed with astrocytoma, a type of brain and spinal cord cancer. He was eight years old.

“I’ve never seen him waver. I have never seen him sad. I’ve never seen him give up his life… The work serves as a kind of counseling for me,” Shaw said. “Since his death, the color of the sky has become richer. The grass is greener. All my senses are heightened.”

Shaw, a teacher at Green Street Academy in West Baltimore and a collaborator at Towson University and MICA, says his mural could be complete soon. He paints in his studio in the Motor House on North Avenue.

“I guess I can draw and paint a little bit at the end of the day,” Shaw said. “There’s another side of Baltimore that isn’t talked about, and there are a lot of loving and caring people here.”

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and arts curator Kirk Shannon-Butts said Shaw’s reputation in the city’s arts scene was second to none.

“Every artist I’ve met here in Baltimore said, ‘Have you met Ernest Shaw? You have to meet Ernest Shaw!’” said Shannon-Butts. “Ernest Shaw is a cornerstone of this (art) movement in Baltimore.”

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Jake Nichol

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