“I want to be clear — this is literally a ledge in my apartment.”
With that Facebook message, Maya Drozdz lets another person in on her little joke.
Drozdz serves as director, curator, graphic designer, social media editor, installer and caterer at the new Ledge Gallery in Over-the-Rhine. Evil genius is an additional title she’s given herself.
“Evil” is another joke, though Drozdz admits to fostering confusion online, such as suggesting there really is a staff behind each Final Friday opening. As for “genius,” that part seems true. Drozdz is successfully elevating the everyday — household items, overlooked buildings, worn-out shoes, friendship — and she’s doing it on a narrow, 5-foot-long ledge that’s best viewed from the spiral staircase of her 400-square-foot loft.
Meet the mayor of Tinytown, a semi-secret place at the intersection of Main Street and make-believe.
Like her apartment, Drozdz (pronounced drohsh) is petite, but again there’s more here than meets the eye. Her Punk persona suggests indifference, but the former New Yorker and native of Poland is engaging, energetic and happily obsessed with detail.
Drozdz, who has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell and a master’s in design from Michigan’s progressive Cranbrook Academy of Art, developed her marketing skills nearly a decade ago as co-founder of VisuaLingual, a design studio known for the garden starters called Seed Bombs. Now proudly on her own, she refers to Ledge as her “client.”
“It’s constantly toeing the line,” Drozdz says about the gallery’s social media. “Is it for real for real, or a big joke?”
She’s imitated traditional galleries’ slick materials by creating logos for fictitious sponsors. But Ledge’s bookmark-size posters and website omit her address. When outsiders point out the apparent oversight, Drozdz blames a nonexistent intern. She wants press but faces a conundrum. “One of the many absurd aspects of this gallery is that I’m now (privately) giving my number to everyone in Cincinnati!” she says.
When Drozdz moved into her apartment in March, friends responded with miniature gifts. Drozdz started photographing the objects and then thought about utilizing “this dumb ledge,” which appears to be the remnants of a baseboard and wood floor.
“I thought it would be a silly catalyst for hanging out with my friends, so we don’t all meet up at a bar,” Drozdz says. At the end of May, she hosted #tinytownaf, an exhibit she pretentiously subtitled tiny objects in dialogue with their portraits. (She’s giving away the remaining photos at her “annex,” a smaller molding strip named L’Edge.)
Once they shook off their mild shock, members of the Tinytown community raised their 1-ounce plastic cups of wine to celebrate Drozdz’s artistic vision. She had originally planned the evening as a one-off, but friends including ArtWorks muralist Scott Donaldson and his wife, Mary, encouraged her to keep going.
June’s gathering, Lost Souls’ Lost Soles, featured found shoe leathers from the “Donaldson Family Collection.” Arts patron Sara Vance Waddell was among the 50 people donning miniature nametags. “For a fledgling art gallery, her presence was so validating, even though this is a joke,” Drozdz says.
Going forward, Drozdz wants to validate her own friends’ artistic pursuits and ultimately open a store. The gallery is booked through March, 2017. For the current exhibit (closing Aug. 22), Drozdz chose the literary title Lilliputian Landscapes to showcase Phil Armstrong’s 3-by-3-inch gray-tone paintings of small Downtown buildings.
While creating maps to accompany Armstrong’s works, the ever-inspired Drozdz dreamed up an upcoming tour past those sites with Armstrong and her next Final Friday artist, designer and PhotoCorps project leader Chris Glass. Drozdz is promoting this Sunday’s free 4-6 p.m. photography walk as great for corporate team-building exercises, bar mitzvahs and quinceañeras. Watch for a Groupon and mobile app — or not.
“It’s evil genius building upon evil genius,” Drozdz says of this collaboration.
LEDGE GALLERY is open 5-7 p.m. during Final Friday and by appointment. More info: Contact Drozdz via ledgegallery.com.
*UPDATE: The Ledge Gallery is now located in Drozdz's small business, Your Friends & Neighbors, at 2803 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills.