The Momentum of spoken word artist Elten Kiene
Elten Kiene is a spoken word artist, performer, writer and self-described professional epicurean. His work is about determining your own values: values about society and how he relates to it. In the fourth episode of Het Momentum, Elten tells us when he really started to see the value of his work. Among other things, he shares insights and tips on how you as a maker can determine your value and price Click here.
Three learning moments from Elten Kiene’s Momentum
- “If you find it difficult to determine the price of your work, it is useful to determine for yourself what it is worth and if you don’t know it yet, to have those conversations with other artists. The moment you choose to earn a living with what you make, you have to build up a portfolio. If you have nothing to show: what is your price based on? Then it’s okay to do something for a lower price, because you gain experience with it.”
- “Collect your adventures, your blessings, photos, texts, experiences. Make sure you can look back, that you can trace back and check your growth”.
- “Go out on your own. I like to be amazed and often visit places I’ve never been before. That’s scary, only I’m not afraid of that anymore, I like that and there’s growth there.”
Above Elten Kiene
Elten Kiene (1984) is a spoken word artist, presenter, organizer and workshop teacher. He is co-founder of the Worden Worden Zinnen platform and was part of hip-hop collective Brandwerk. Bringing different worlds together with word art as the most important instrument, runs like a red thread through all his activities. In 2020 he received the South Holland Culture Prize of the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund because he knows how to appeal to a wide audience with literary programs and how to get the best out of young poetry performers.
Why did you sign up for the Mentoring for Business Leaders program ?
“The bar has been set high for Oatmilk Studio. Our productions are intended to travel all over the country. Beautiful, but also quite a responsibility. I am very happy with our board, which trusts me completely. Still, it is nice as a starting director to be able to spar with someone who is completely outside the organization. So much is coming down to me as a person right now.
It is then very nice if someone with a lot of experience sometimes literally looks over your shoulder. This is what I run into: how would you deal with this? Oatmilk has a Culture Loan , also through Cultuur+Ondernemen. That is how I came across the possibility of calling in a mentor. And it therefore perfectly matched my development and ambition at that time.”
How did your mentor’s guidance help you as a starting director?
“In the beginning I had to find my way. There is no textbook or prescription for what you should learn as a producer or business leader. Moreover: I had no experience in management yet. I am now ultimately responsible. And I manage people who are sometimes older than I am. What I want is: to be open to everyone’s experience or expertise, but to be the captain on the ship. All in all, pretty exciting. With Erik I discussed a case per session that I encountered at that moment. Very concrete. He then gave his vision and tips for how he would approach it. He did so in a very honest way. Erik’s help brought me a certain relaxation in doing business. It gave me confidence: in my own abilities as director and in the existence of our organization.”
Can you name an example?
“Of course, the vision and mission that form the basis of Oat milk already existed. But in the culture sector you depend on quite a lot of factors. Take subsidies, for example. Applying for grants is a game you have to learn to play. You don’t have to be immediately taken aback by a rejection. Erik has a lot of experience: he understands how the theater world and the fund world work, and he understands what moves free producers. The fact that he found our plans relevant naturally gave a positive boost.”
Was the match with your mentor right?
“Sure. Both on a personal level and on what I needed professionally. It was quite an intensive process. With Oat milk I try to knock down boxes: theatre, musical, drama, young talents and new stories. Erik understood exactly what we were doing. He read along with the plans, and became enthusiastic about it. Because he understood it, he was also able to provide me with very targeted feedback.”
What advice would you give to managers who want to sign up for a mentoring program?
“Think carefully in advance about what exactly you want to learn. When you enter such a trajectory, you are in the driver’s seat. So get clear on what you would like. For example: learning to lead is very broad. Focus it on a situation or use concrete cases. This is how you get the most out of such a valuable contact with an experienced mentor from the profession.”
“These days there are some courses that prepare you for a business position in the cultural sector, but the real learning still takes place ‘on the job’. With trial and error. Of course, informal peer consultation is possible, but you still have to learn the real trade in practice. In that learning process it can be valuable to gain knowledge from someone who has been involved in the sector for a while.
Someone who knows the pitfalls and who can protect you from mistakes he made himself. The position of business leader demands a lot from someone. Any help is therefore welcome. To ensure that a new generation of business leaders can develop properly, I like to pass on my knowledge, experience and network. I would have really appreciated that myself when I just rolled into the profession.”
How would you describe your coaching style?
“I want to empower the mentee as much as possible. I don’t want to insist that the way I do things is the best way. I point out pitfalls and things that cost too much negative energy. Because the profession of a business leader is characterized by the many stakeholders you have to serve, I try to get the mentee to make sure that he/she doesn’t get ahead of himself or take on too much.
There are already too many (young) business leaders with burnout symptoms. With my contribution I hope to prevent people in the sector from burning out too quickly. I start from the wishes and demands of the mentee as much as possible. Sometimes the questions I get are of a personal nature, sometimes they prefer advice on concrete business challenges. The mentee determines what he needs. And sometimes I send in it,
What is your vision on leadership of a cultural organization?
“You have to find the balance between being ‘strict’ in business and understanding the consequences of artistic choices. The flexibility almost always comes from the business side of the organization, the artistic side is often rigid. Many people who work in the sector are extremely conservative on certain points. I think it’s important that as a leader in culture you sometimes resist. The sector is pre-eminently conservative, afraid of change and afraid to do things in a different way. As a business leader, you must continuously look for the creation of preconditions within which adaptation to the circumstances is made possible.”
What is your vision on organizations like Oatmilk and their importance in the chain?
“Oatmilk is a fresh voice in the landscape. Making music theater while offering opportunities to young makers and designers ensures that the genre continues to develop. Driving forces like Niels, who work tirelessly towards that goal, ensure that music theater remains relevant.”
Did you ever have a mentor yourself, and what was their role?
“In my career I often needed a mentor. I feel like I’ve had to reinvent the wheel too many times. I used to find my sounding board among college friends in other sectors, who regularly held up a mirror to me. I missed such a sounding board within the sector, apart from a few colleagues who worked in similar organizations where I could ‘cry’ on a shoulder every now and then. That’s why I think the processes developed by Cultuur+Ondernemen are so important.
This is what the sector needs. And that’s why I’m happy to contribute to that as a mentor. Moreover: the contacts with the young guard also keep me sharp and up to date. In my experience, a mentoring process is always reciprocal.” Niels and Erik participated in the successful Mentoring for Business Leaders program , one of the two programs for managers of cultural organizations , as mentee and mentor respectively . New applications can be submitted all year round. Cultuur+Ondernemen has an extensive, ever-growing team of mentors for cultural organizations .
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