March 8, 2018

Octopus Initiative, putting art in the hands of many


We are pleased to announce the launch of the Octopus Initiative. Funded as part of the Elevated Heartbeat campaign, the initiative will commission, in its first phase, 20 Denver artists to create works that will be a part of an art lending library. The library will allow all Metro Denver residents to select their favorite works, and through a lottery process, borrow works of art for up to one year, making living with art more approachable. The Octopus Initiative puts art in the hands of many: extending the reach of the museum into the community.

“The Octopus Initiative, which both supports the artists in our community and also gives wide audiences an unprecedented level of direct experience with serious art, symbolizes everything we are trying to do in our next phase of growth: broadening the ways that art enriches the life of our city,” said Adam Lerner, the Mark G. Falcone Director and Chief Animator.

Over the last decade, Denver has experienced a level and growth and prosperity not seen since the gold rush. The Octopus Initiative was created to help ensure that Denver artists are not left behind by this growth, but continue to add vibrance and creativity to civic life: ensuring that Denver remains a creative place to live. Artists were nominated through a peer nomination process, and selected by the MCA Denver curatorial team. Once selected into the program, each artist is commissioned to create 25 works of art that become part of the art lending library. The artists are paid for their work, as well as given a stipend to help fund their supplies and pay for studio space for a year.

"The generosity provided by MCA Denver through the Octopus Initiative has opened a world of possibilities for me artistically and financially. With the studio grant and direct commission funding, I allowed myself a moment to reflect on the work without the stress of everyday economic burden,” said artist Derrick Velasquez. “However, beyond this, the mission of the Octopus Initiative was the driving force behind the creation of the new work – it is an unprecedented move to put art in the hands of many while also putting significant money in the hands of Denver artists."

All of the commissioned work will be on view at MCA Denver. Museum visitors will be able to browse a selection of works in a newly renovated space, displaying up to 75 artworks at any given time. Through a lottery system and web application developed by MCA Denver, visitors will select their favorite works, and if chosen, be able to borrow the work for up to one year. Each work is framed and has a custom carrying case to ensure safe transport to and from the museum. By offering these long-term loans, the program strives to better connect Denver residents to the artists living and working in Denver, strengthening the entire community as well as challenging preconceived notions of how visitors engage with art in a museum setting. By 2020, the library inventory will consist of 500 works by 20 artists. The first lottery will take place on April 15, 2018.

The web application that was designed for the Octopus Initiative also allows anyone to browse all of the works in the Octopus Initiative from the comfort of their couch or favorite bar. By simply hitting the “heart” button next to the works they love, and completing the registration process, any Denver Metro resident can sign up for the lottery system without having to visit the museum, making access to artwork easier than ever.

The initial group of artists commissioned to create work for the Octopus Initiative includes: Laura Shill, Derrick Velasquez, Chris Oatey, Suchitra Mattai, Molly Bounds, and Sierra Montoya Barela. Additional works from Viviane Le Courtois, Clark Richert, and Diego Rodriguez-Warner will become available later in the year as the library expands.

The Octopus Initiative will officially launch with a celebration on Thursday, March 15, 2018. The event will unveil the newly designed home of the Octopus Initiative. Guests will also be able to browse the art, register for the program, and meet the artists involved. Admission from 4-9PM will be one penny, and there will be drink specials in the MCA Cafe & Bar. Learn all about here!