Artist Ernest Shaw Jr. paints a mural at Lexington Market. Shaw will paint a total of four murals at the renovated market. Screenshot from video by Seawall.

Baltimore artist Ernest Shaw Jr. has been commissioned to paint four new murals for the renovated Lexington Market Plaza.

Beginning Monday, Shaw will render four, 16-foot outdoor murals to line the walls of Lexington Market. The project is expected to last three weeks.

Shaw’s career as a painter, muralist, and arts educator spans over three decades. He has a number of murals throughout Baltimore, as well as murals located in Rochester, New York; Atlanta, Georgia; and Cali, Colombia.

Currently, Shaw serves as an arts educator at Green Street Academy, a charter middle and high school located in West Baltimore.

“Recognizing the nuanced history of Lexington Market, it is an honor and a privilege to join a group of esteemed artists to create imagery that reflects and validates the lived experiences of the market’s constituency,” Shaw said in a statement.

According to his website, Shaw’s work focuses on “authentic portrayals of the Black body.” Many of his works throughout Baltimore, including his mural of Toni Morrison in Graffiti Alley, feature Black figures.

Shaw is just one of a number of artists whose work will be displayed throughout the new Lexington Market. 

In 2021, it was announced that three teams of Baltimore artists were chosen to create unique art installations for the renovated market.

Installations include mother-and-son duo Oletha DeVane and Chris Kojzar’s sculpture “Robert and Rosetta”; “Food Play,” a sculpture by Reed Bmore, Nick Ireys, and Eric Smith; and “Our Ties to the Market,” a piece by photographer and collage artist SHAN Wallace in collaboration with historian Jessica Harris.

Each piece is an homage to Lexington Market’s relationship with Baltimore’s residents, acknowledging the market’s deep history.

According to a press release, DeVane and Kojzar’s “Robert and Rosetta” is a commemoration of the “two recorded instances of enslaved persons either being sold at the Market or hunted because of their connection to it.”

“Food Play” is an interactive exploration of the “complex relationships” people have with food.

“Our Ties to the Market,” which was created with the help of cultural food historian Jessica Harris, is a tribute to Black food culture in Baltimore and America’s public markets. Wallace’s piece is a continuation of “The Avenue,” her recent installation at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

These pieces of art are just one step towards the revitalization of Lexington Market. 

In 2019, Baltimore development company Seawall launched the “Transform Lexington” project, which aimed to expand the Lexington Market into two structures.

Breaking ground on the market’s existing parking lot and Arcade structure on Lexington Street, Seawall made way for the South Market, a “walkable, urban plaza.” The South Market will operate in tandem with the East Market, which has remained open throughout the renovation process.

Lexington Market, which is the longest continually running public market in America, recently received $4.9 million in funding from Mayor Brandon Scott to aid revitalization efforts.

The new South Market building, which will feature over 45 new vendor stalls, is set to open in the fall of 2022.

Liv Barry

Liv Barry is Baltimore Fishbowl's 2022 summer reporting intern. Barry is rising junior at Washington College, where she is majoring in communication and media studies and double minoring in journalism,...