Connecting through the human experience with Kirsten Kaufmann of 'Say Your Piece'

FLINT, Michigan — Flint native Kirsten Kaufmann hadn’t anticipated that her struggles with depression and anxiety would give her agency and the opportunity to create a free event series called 'Say Your Piece.' The series is “short and to the point” and, in front of a live audience, allows people to “speak what was left unsaid or never had the chance to say.”

The show has offered its performers a cathartic experience. However, with a laugh, she reveals that 'Say Your Piece' has allowed her to be vulnerable in her personal life. 

With her production company, Infinity Plus One Creative, Kaufmann is dedicated to producing high-quality events and creative spaces that leave a lasting impression on attendees and performers. It’s an endeavor that has gotten her out of her shell.

Despite her success, her humble attitude and friendly disposition keep her grounded in the uncertainty about her blossoming role in Flint’s abundant creative community.

She is appreciative that the opportunities given to her by Totem Books, Buckham Gallery, and Queens Provisions allow her to flex her creative muscles and “be able to produce other things or come up with other ideas for shows” — like the Black History-themed show at Black Amor Yoga and Life Studio on Saturday, Feb. 24, and a potential show with Riverbank Arts.  

Flintside caught up with Kaufmann on an Instagram video call to talk about her life, 'Say Your Piece,' and what’s next on the horizon.

Kaufmann, pictured on Jan. 18, 2024, expresses her appreciation and joy at her success in creating 'Say Your Piece' with a bright smile and a down-to-earth personality. (Anthony Summers |
Flintside: 'Say Your Piece' is unique. The premise of it sounds cathartic, like therapy. Diving into it, it’s like sharing secrets. What inspired this?

Kirsten Kaufmann: “Most of my life, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Winter 2022, going into the beginning of 2023, I was in a bad state. I started to seek help, and one of the things I found out about myself is [that] I don’t do a good job expressing myself, my emotions, and talking about them. [Writing] helps me process my thoughts and emotions. The idea started in my head to create a space where people could express themselves as a means of healing. I thought maybe there were other people out there that could benefit from saying these things out loud.”

Flintside: It’s one thing to journal or write a song. It’s entirely different to stand in front of a live audience and say or perform it. What’s the goal to get people to do this?

K. Kaufmann: “It’s a tough thing to do. I commend the performers that agree to perform. I feel like there is magic in the vulnerability of being seen trying. That’s why I felt it was important to do an in-person live show for this. I do my best to create a space for people without risk of judgment. The performance approach offers that feeling of catharsis. If we’re brave enough to speak on things others aren’t willing to say, I think that’s a beautiful opportunity for people to realize that they’re not alone.”

“I want the show to be inclusive. I don’t want it to be a pretentious thing. Why are we here if we can’t connect to our human experience as people on this Earth?” explains Kaufmann on Jan. 18, 2024. (Anthony Summers |
Flintside: In creating 'Say Your Piece' and having an outlet like this, can you better express your emotions to your family and friends?

K. Kaufmann: “I’ve done a better job with it. There’s things I’ve shared with my friends in the past year that I’ve been dealing with for a decade that they had no idea. It’s made me open up to the idea of the power of sharing things. I think this show helps with that because I always have something to share at the beginning of the show. I feel it’s unfair of me to invite people to be vulnerable if I’m not willing to be myself.”

Flintside: You had this idea and wanted to create this space. How did all the dominoes align for you to put this on continuously?

K. Kaufmann: “The first show, I knew what I had to do was find a venue. The first show was at Totem Books. I met with some of the folks there and told them the idea, and they were excited about it. At that point, I started to reach out to people in the community I thought would be interested in participating. Secondly, I feel like, as artists, we’re always doing things for free. I wanted to at least offer something for the [booked] performers and artists: having them get free headshots by Joshua Johnson Design.” 

Flintside: When we talk about community, there is a diverse array of performers across ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations. How important is it that you bring in and connect this audience and simultaneously build bridges?

K. Kaufmann: “I want the show to be inclusive. I don’t want it to be a pretentious thing. [It] was an important thing to me, just feeling like everyone could utilize this space or mic to go up and say anything. A lot of people hear about it from word of mouth, and I try to get people to share it, too. Why are we here if we can’t connect to our human experience as people on this Earth?”

"Don’t be afraid to ask for help" is one of the many lessons Kaufmann learned from 'Say Your Piece,' pictured in downtown Flint on Jan. 18, 2024. (Anthony Summers |
Flintside: How does it feel to be a part of the people changing the narrative of what’s possible in Flint?

K. Kaufmann: “I don’t know. It doesn’t change anything for me. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I have Infinity Plus One Creative as the production company and do other things under that umbrella. I want to keep doing this show, and it’s beneficial. I’m going to continue to find venues that will be willing to host the show and see what it turns into.”

Flintside: Having to create and produce 'Say Your Piece,' how have you grown and evolved?

K. Kaufmann: “I think producing the shows, going up and talking to venues, that’s not something I would have done before. What motivated me was the idea of this and what it can bring. In that, I’ve grown in producing, and I create the promos and visuals for the shows. That’s an area that I found that I enjoy. Outside of my normal nine-to-five, that gives me energy. Having an outlet for me is important. I have to flex this creative muscle and see a vision to fruition. That excites me.”

Flintside: What are some lessons learned in creating Say Your Piece?

K. Kaufmann: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve historically been bad at keeping everything in, dealing with things on my own, and not wanting to bother others with how I’m feeling. My takeaway is if I don’t open up, I’m not vulnerable, [then] I miss the opportunity to connect with somebody. That would be my biggest takeaway in this journey of trying to process my mental health.”

Find 'Say Your Piece' on Instagram and Infinite Plus One Creative on its website. Interested in performing at 'Say Your Piece?' You can sign up here.
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.