AUTHOR: BEN WALTER
To know the why of ODDFOLK, my story has to be told.
PART ONE: I AM A DREAMER, I AM A CREATIVE.
There has always been a longing within me to start things and to be able to have complete ownership over something. For years this manifested itself in church planting. My entrepreneurial spirit combined with my faith made for what seemed a lethal combo. After years of working toward leading my own faith community, it all came to a screeching halt. I was lost and not sure what to do next. This ambiguous future wouldn’t last long. I can’t sit still.
During my time working towards planting a church I had done a lot of creative things inside and outside of the church. I always self-identified as an artsy-fartsy type and taught myself all kinds of creative stuff. My days in high school were spent in the theatre or the newspaper room. To supplement my work as a minister I designed things, filmed stuff, and wrote a lot. This work became a company I founded called DOX Creative, I took on numerous clients and pursued bi-vocationalism through being a creative and a future pastor. After the pastor part of my career disappeared I fully embraced the idea of being a creative professional. I continued to run DOX for about a year after leaving full-time ministry.
That year of working a full-time gig as a designer and running a design and film shop was eye-opening and prepared me for a lot of what I am doing now. But, something wasn’t right with building and running this shop, there was something missing. For a couple of months after closing DOX, I pursued the coffee industry, in the form of building my coffee shop, and then running a blog devoted to creativity in the coffee industry. Something still wasn’t right. I took a break from starting things and tried to be happy with a full-time job.
It wasn’t three months later that I was building ODDFOLK.
PART TWO: OUR EDUCATION ISN’T WORKING FOR ME, OR OTHERS.
School didn’t work for me. Sitting in a seat for seven, 45-minute classes, listening to someone endlessly talk — I learned nothing. That’s not to say I didn’t learn at all, in fact, I learned the most in two places: theatre and desktop publishing, or the newspaper/yearbook class. There were two consistencies within these learning environments that allowed me to be successful: 1) there was no lecture, 2) you learned as you did, not as you heard. Now, this didn’t work for everyone, but it worked for me. At the time I didn’t know it, but I was putting all my effort into being a star student in the most standard, acceptable way possible. This bled into college where lectures dominated the field. I found though that I could bypass my inability to learn in these institutional ways by leaning into the community, other students, that were around me.
Spoiler alert: I still dropped out of college. Despite finding new ways to learn within the institutional model of education, I still left. Why? One reason: the amount I was spending, did not even come close to the return I was going to receive. In other words, I was tired of paying people to tell me things I could read about and learn on my own. I had surpassed the need to be taught how to read, write, and think and I believe I surpassed it some time before I entered college.
There are multiple reasons why this was my educational experience, but the biggest one relates back to part one: I’m a dreamer and a creative. I need to be constantly moving. Some have called me ADD, I can assure you it’s not. Give me 45 minutes with a subject and I’ll understand most of what I need to know. Self-learning is the best route for me. Through the years I have met a lot of others just like me and learned their struggle with the institutions and the amount of debt they have accrued.
PART THREE: PASSIONS ARE BIRTHED, DREAMS ARE BUILT.
Everything I have tried to build has fallen flat and the education I once pursued failed me. With these two realities something was born during the months I stopped trying. And it’s simple: I don’t want anyone to go through this. I took my love of creative things, my desire to lead a community, and my passion for seeing education change, throw it all into a pot and let it simmer for 3 months.
I now, figuratively, stand before you with a steaming hot pot of my next vision. A non-profit organization devoted to supporting creativity through co-operative education and collaboration. ODDFOLK will be equal parts education program, creative studio, coworking space, cafe, and event space.
Wow! That’s a lot of things. Let’s break it all down.
THE RESIDENT PROGRAM + CREATIVE STUDIO
Have you watched Silicon Valley? It’s a really great show, but the part I really want you to look at is the incubator where the main character is able to build his app, while he helps all of the other “nerds” in the incubator create their apps. Now, that was super disorganized and the guy that ran the incubator was a sleazeball. Add a few dashes of professionalism to it and replace coding and app development with creative skills (i.e., design, filmmaking, photography, writing, etc).
I want to launch creatives in their dream careers. Give them some client work to teach them how to make ends meet, but also allow them to work on their passion projects while getting paid. Those are your residents and they would be on board with me for two to three years and then I would launch them out into the world to do their thing.
Collaboration and community are huge values to me. I believe that some of the best things in my life and in the lives of a lot of successful people have been these values. I can think of a ton of people who are trying to start things, have quite a bit of credibility, and don’t really need my service of inspiring them. But, I want to help them too. By giving them a space to work in and others to collaborate with.
I love coffee and I have always wanted to own a coffee shop and I believe that coffee shops are one of the greatest common incubators for today’s makers and thinkers. Just think about it. The last time you were needing to work on something for school or wanted to talk to someone about something important, you probably went to a coffee shop. That’s the best explanation I have for the caffeinated side of this idea.
This space would also be used to showcase some of the products that our residents and coworkers create.
Sticking with that idea of community and collaboration, an event space will allow ODDFOLK to put on gallery nights, workshops, and a ton of other events the community wants to hold.
It’s a huge idea and one I am super excited to be building now. Taking the three-month break ended up being an amazing thing, allowing me to really take a step back and see what I wanted to build for my life.
I am a dreamer. I am a creative. I am a community builder.