Assistant Photography Editor
Sunbeams cascade through the gallery catching the glimmer of paintings and collages adorning the walls of the YMI Cultural Center. People of all ages and backgrounds stroll through the show filled with an abundance of colors, shine and floral arrangements, appropriately named, Spring Awakening. Aja Cobbs, owner and operator of The Art Trap House, presents her first solo art show exhibition.
“The Art Trap House is a really fun, diverse cultural experience for the guest. So whenever you come, you get to experience kind of a festival-type environment where you can purchase amazing art. Imagine you can see anything: vendors, food vendors that might be catering, people who are on the rise. So that’s really where the energy comes from. It’s always a great vibe as far as being a part of The Art Trap House,” said Cobbs, a 26-year-old artist and entrepreneur.
Upon entering the show, the first 60 guests were awarded with a gift bag containing a raffle ticket for a chance to win an original painting of Cobbs’. The opening event on March 16 ran from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m., but Cobbs’ installation will be available to the public for the next six weeks.
The show commenced in the art gallery where guests were free to mingle, network, purchase art and take photos in front of the handmade flower wall by Cobbs. As the evening progressed, patrons were invited to move to the second floor for dancing, drinks and soul food. Other vendors were also present here to sell their one-of-a-kind creations.
“I love everything. Everything she has created, I am in admiration. I admire her because she put all of this together, she created the paintings and all of the advertising. For someone to do that on their own is astonishing. Huge props to her,” said Jenny Funes, a freelance evening gown designer from Charlotte.
Cobbs, born and raised in Asheville, quit her day job in 2016 at the age of 24 to pick up art full time. She had her first exhibition and began The Art Trap House in 2016. Cobbs describes The Art Trap House as a travelling music and arts festival that caters to all artists, but specializes in the development of African American artists and entrepreneurs. Besides the appearances in Asheville, so far the company has traveled and put on shows in Charlotte, Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington D.C.
“Me and Aja have been doing stuff together for three years now. I help her with her events and we collaborate. This is dope because it’s our first time doing something together and it’s in her hometown. It’s also my first time in Asheville,” said Mark Clarke, who is better known as Milly and is a self proclaimed art dealer.
Clarke owns and operates The Mini Hip-Hop Museum, housed in Baltimore, Maryland. He was among one of the other artists presenting their work that evening. There was a mini hip-hop history wall that guests were invited to take pictures in front of while they learned the history of hip-hop and its culture.
“Artists get the tools from my program to learn how to operate in different art shows. If you’re an artist, you have your paintings and then you might go get prints. Some people don’t know how to operate when they go to another art show. They may just bring their paintings, which may be really high priced. They don’t know to bring prints of their artwork so they can sell it at a lower price and reach more peoples’ price points for those who can’t drop a thousand dollars on a painting. So you just want to be able to make money during your experiences. And that’s kind of what the trap part is. It’s like the hustle of an artist, you know? So I really enjoy that,” Cobbs said.
Any artist who wants to participate, learn new skills and sell their art is welcome to present their portfolio to Cobbs and apply for a spot. Cobbs said she wants to see the hunger of the artist. The Art Trap House is making plans to travel throughout the country and continue putting on shows. The next show will be in August, where the company will be travelling to New York for their summer festival. The one-woman company is also set to open it’s own gallery in December of 2020.
“No matter your circumstances, you can manifest in your dream. You just have to believe in yourself. That’s what I want to leave the people with because people, you know, try to put a limitation on themselves and it’s just so important to know that you can beat the odds,” Cobbs said.