Always chasing the afterglow

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This yearbook brings together twenty creatives and community organisers from all walks of life: musicians, visual artists, dancers, art collectives, and everything in between. From personal to political, their contributions reflect diverse forms of community-building through care. How do they inspire each other? Who do they care for? How do they care? 💘

  • Name: Olivia Lopez Calderon 
  • Founder of Skin Mutts, a platform for people that grew up with different cultures and belong to multiple ethnicities
  • Pronouns: she/her
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Brussels
  • Instagram: @multiolly98 and @skinmutts

What do you care most about, and how is it relevant to your art/practice? It could be a social issue, your community, yourself, or anything! 

I care for people to find a sense of belonging. Often there are a lot of obstacles that are out of our control, especially in cultural identity. Things like nationality laws, language barriers, birthplace, cultural habits…

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Three words that come to mind when you hear the term ‘care’? 

People, food, love.

What inspires you to care more for others, or to use your art/practice as a platform to do so? 

I love people’s stories. I think there’s so much beauty in people’s daily rituals and small mundane elements that we don’t realise make up a big part of our identity. It’s fascinating to see how different each person’s normality is. I grew up with a different normality than the people around me and seeing how many people relate to this feeling, pushes me to create a space and a community where we can share, talk and laugh.

It’s fascinating to see how different each person’s normality is

How do you hope to inspire others? 

I hope that people can see that their story is important too and that there will always be someone who relates, that they’re not alone. 

What type of change do you want to inspire in your community/environment? 

I would love to see people talk with more nuance when talking about other people’s identities. Having fewer assumptions and listening to people’s experiences. In the big picture, I hope that this will bring people to act towards dismantling oppression systems. 

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How much influence do you think (y)our backgrounds have on (y)our art and practices? 

I think it’s both the main influence and also no influence at all. What we do is more triggered by the differences between our cultural backgrounds and the one our environment. It’s funny to see how many people deeply relate to each other, even coming from very different places. 

What are some challenges that you face while doing what you are passionate about? 

Not everybody sees the need for a platform like Skin Mutts. I understand how it can be a complex concept for someone whose reality has always been monocultural and that’s okay as long as there’s respect. There’s also a very specific way we talk about multiculturalism, which is sometimes hard to explain for someone who has an ‘EU/ex-pat’ understanding of multiculturalism. 

How do you define ‘community’? 

A community for me is people who understand and relate to each other’s experiences. When Skin Mutts first started I thought that these people could only be other mixed people. With time I realised how much it resonates with whoever grew up in between different cultural worlds. 

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What is a ‘safe space’ for you? 

It is a general sign for me to know that Skin Mutts will be understood in a given space. When someone asks me where I’m from I say ‘Well, I guess from Italy?...’ And the person in front of me immediately gives me an understanding look and replies with ‘Oh yeah, I get it’. 

Do you think this generation is redefining care and community building? And how? 

The internet is a big part of how this generation redefines care and community building. Besides the creation of online spaces, I think it’s a way to see how other people take care within their community and be able to share tools for care. 

What small acts of care do you hope to see more of? 

The intention of being together. Being fully present when spending time with other people. I believe that’s an act of care both for you, allowing yourself to enjoy the moment, and for others. 

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How do you balance taking care of others and taking care of yourself? Do you make that distinction in the first place? 

I think that a lot of people who work around social issues have guilt in taking a moment for themselves. I was invited to a panel last December to also talk about care, so it seems like everybody is slowly realising the importance of taking a break. It’s very hard because my work is so intrinsically connected with my identity, but lately, I’ve been more graceful towards myself, actively trying to find a balance. 

Do you care about being cared about?

It’s never been my priority, but in the past two years, I recognised the importance of having people around you that care for you. Lisa, the co-founder, started working with me two years ago and she deeply cares about the work we do, but I feel how that care extends to me too (<3). 

What do you want to be remembered for? 

I would like for Skin Mutts to be remembered as a place where people that grew up in between cultures could share their experiences, find comfort in others’ stories and question their cultural identity. I would like to be remembered for my funny jokes and my crochet hats.

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> Photos by Ila Pittaluga and Lisa Eeraerts <br/> skinmutts.com </div></div>

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