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Aineki Traverso - photo: Will Crooks

Edge Award winner’s leap of faith finds success.

Aineki Traverso - photo: Will Crooks
Aineki Traverso – photo: Will Crooks

Aineki Traverso went to Sarah Lawrence College to study film theory. But before graduating in 2013, she took a painting class that changed her career path.

“I grew up with a single mom who was a painter and a working artist, so I was very much exposed to that life, but I didn’t think it was a career for me until I took that class,” says Traverso, 31. “It really spoke to me.”

Despite “falling in love” with art and having a parent role model, she found being an artist didn’t always pay the bills. Many of her post-grad years were spent as an operations manager for a window company. But being named the 2024 Edge Award winner by the Buckhead-based Forward Arts Foundation is changing her career path once again

The award supports early- to mid-career artists in the metro area with a $10,000 cash prize, a two week residency at the Hambidge Center in north Georgia and a solo exhibit at the Swan Coach House Gallery in April next year.

“I stumbled upon the award when I first moved here in 2016 and was looking at different art spaces and artists collectives,” Traverso says. “I felt it was almost unachievable because they pick top artists, and I couldn’t imagine winning it one day.”

About three years ago, Traverso took a leap of faith to commit herself to art full-time. “I was slowly getting more shows, but not solo shows at any prominent galleries, and I didn’t want to miss potential opportunities.

It was very scary, especially because I don’t come from money; I don’t have a safety net. I very much support myself paycheck to paycheck. But I just got to the point where I decided I had to make it work because painting is the most important thing in my life.”

Traverso scoured the metro area for a studio and landed at a warehouse she shares with other artists in southwest Atlanta. Having the space has also influenced her work.

“It’s helped me develop a more consistent practice, and that’s helped me find my place in the arts scene here,” she says. “I’m definitely an emerging artist, but I’ve had more success in the last three years.”

In June, Traverso had her first solo show of oil paintings at Whitespace Gallery near Inman Park. She describes her work as largely figurative and created in a range of sizes. One of her largest is a 4-by-5-foot canvas of a horse, but she also has 4-by-5 inch works on paper. The Edge Award committee lauded how she “uses the rhetoric of painting to echo the way identities and memories are both transformed and constructed.” Traverso admits she often creates figures from childhood photos or from memory, but animals and people are her favorite subjects. “I also do a lot of portrait commissions” she says.

After the initial shock of winning the Edge Award, Traverso says the honor confirms what she really knew: “I am ready for this.”


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