Humans are good at asking questions. Maybe it’s part of our essential nature. Or maybe it’s just a necessity in the face of an endlessly knowable universe.

Either way, there’s two possible responses—you can ask questions you think will lead to a predetermined answer, or you can let the question lead you where it wants. So we take a cue from Neil Degrasse Tyson: “So many people only want answers. To be a scientist you have to learn to love the questions. You’ll learn some of the greatest mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, and that’s the fun part. That’s the part that gets you awake in the morning and running to the office, because there’s a problem awaiting your attention that you might just solve that day. You have to embrace the unknown and embrace your own ignorance.”

The Roosevelt was conceived from a question: Where’s the intersection of what I’m passionate about and something I can do to fight hunger, unclean water, and modern-day slavery?

In 2013, founder Kenny Sipes left his job not knowing the answer to this question. Almost two years passed before we knew the answer was coffee.

And so we found a creative solution that arose from our passion for coffee and our goal—we created a space to craft high quality coffee to raise money to fight injustices, and to mobilize customers through honest and open dialogue and collaboration in our space.

The Roosevelt was created by leaving margin for a creative solution to appear.

We see this lesson being played out at Blockfort, a Columbus shared studio and gallery space. Founders Adam and Meghan Brouillette know the power of asking questions, and they’ve been looking for answers in unexpected places in the local Columbus art scene for the last 15 years.

Shared office space in Blockfort’s basement, pictured with some Roosevelt regulars!

Our personal favorite example of a creative solution that Adam discussed with the Roosevelt is A-Holes, a 2010 event that Adam lead engineered where 18 artists each hand built a mini-golf hole and invited their fan base, hoping to introduce fans to other artist participants’ work.

Another creative solution Adam crafted arose from a question—how can we create a more robust, ongoing conversation between artists in Columbus? Finding himself surrounded by many talented local artists, AB wanted to find a forum to connect these artists and open a line of communication in the community.

The creative answer to this question first took the form of Junctionview Studios, which aimed to increase collaboration between artists in a shared space by hosting everything from yoga to Wii Sports tournaments to art and music show. Junctionview’s churned on a formula that Adam calls “live-action social media,” where each artist invites five friends to a show with the hope that those friends will invite five more friends. This formula eventually turned into Agora festival, an art show at Junctionview that clocked 10,000 guests in its final manifestation in 2013, and eventually led Adam to moving the event downtown and revamping it as the annual Independent’s Day Fest in 2007.

One of Adam’s and Meghan’s latest creative solutions has manifested as Blockfort Studios. Blockfort creatively fills a void in the artistic community in a few ways.

For one, it exists to serve its client-tenants—Adam wants his space to be a stepping stone between a populist art show at the warehouse level where the mentality is “everyone that makes art should be able to show art,” and the upper crest of art shows, like art centers, museums, or big name galleries. Blockfort’s design is to give artists who are ready for the next step a place to show their work individually in a gallery setting, connecting them with representation at upper level galleries.

Adam and Meghan also intend for Blockfort to serve visitors, too. Whereas many galleries are pretentious and condescending to showgoers, Blockfort is designed to be a welcoming space where visitors are greeted, and where artists are excited for each visitor to engage in the experience—a message Sipes holds dearly to at the Roosevelt.

But perhaps most importantly, Blockfort consummates the question Adam first set out to answer—Blockfort creates a community where a diverse group of artists can add nuance and perspective to each other’s’ work. Blockfort’s genius is in its cross-pollination between disciplines, as it’s home to graphic designers and illustrators, models, brand consultants, press printers, event organizers, social advocacy planners, and sculptors and material artists.

As Adam told the Confluence Cast in an April interview, there’s not only diversity in discipline, but also in age, social experiences, race, and sexual preference. Adam said:

“We’re trying to be very intentional in that, as where at say a Junctionview it was anyone who signed up on the waiting list and could pay rent. And I don’t think what we’re doing here is scripting the society to be like the Burger King Kids Club, but at the same time there is some advantage to having a little bit of difference in the conversations that you end of having with the artists and the experiences that those artists bring.”

To return to the science theme, astrophysicist Marcelo Gleiser said in an interview with On Being and Marilynne Robinson at the National Constitution Center that the authority of science comes from its self-criticism.

There’s a sort of “ruthless aspect” to science, as it takes you to the truth but only if you’re willing to accept it. Gleiser continues: when you’re working on a problem, “it seems to have a way to go . . . which is kind of beyond what we have total control of. . . . [W]hen you find the solution or something that looks like the solution, you get emotionally moved to an amazing extent, especially when it’s a surprising thing. . . [But] sometimes you’re forced to go where you don’t want to go.”

And that’s really where it starts for the Roosevelt and Blockfort—the mystery of following the answer. It’s how we’ve found creative solutions.