BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Ernest Shaw’s “Continuous Line” exhibition runs through Easter at Baltimore’s World Trade Center Top of the World Observation Level at the Inner Harbor.

Shaw’s art on display “examines the uninterrupted connection between continental African traditional culture and Africans dispersed throughout 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 at the recently demolished Carver Apartments on Division Street before moving to Edmondson Village.

“I watched these walls ever since I was a little boy,” Shaw said, overlooking the two-part Unity mural splitting North Avenue and Park Avenue. “I designed them as one piece.”

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

“I want the people who live there, who often are stereotyped based on that blight, to get to experience something beautiful,” Shaw said. “What I do, I don’t do for self. I do to make a very small contribution to make this world a better place. Especially Baltimore.”

 He says his main subject is his daughter Asya, who is 26 years old now but is often depicted as a child. Her likeness is on the new Unity mural, as well as the painting on the side of The Arch Social Club at Penn and North.

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

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

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“I was not in any shape mentally, spiritually, emotionally to actually take on such a project,” Shaw said the the McElderry Street mural.

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

“I never saw him waver. I never saw him sad. I never saw him give up on living… The work serves as a type of counseling for me,” Shaw said. “Since his passing, the color of the sky is more rich. The grass is greener. All my senses have been heightened.”

Shaw, a teacher at Green Street Academy in West Baltimore and an adjunct at Towson University and MICA, says his mural work may soon be done. He paints at his studio at Motor House on North Avenue.

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

Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts Curator Kirk Shannon-Butts said Shaw’s reputation in the city’s art scene is unmatched.

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

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Paul Gessler