Octopus Initiative
April 27, 2018

What Happens When You Win The Octopus Initiative


We selected our first ever Octopus Initiative lottery winners April 15, and to say they were excited is an extreme understatement. In fact, Lily was so excited she’s been sharing her news of winning all over social media. And we couldn’t help but want to hear more so we sat down with Lily, the winner of Derrick Velazquez's Trim Void 16 to learn a little about her and her experience with Octopus Initiative.

Hey Lily, we hear you’re new to Denver, what brought you to the city?

Making Denver our home was really a series of fortunate events.

My husband, Alex, and I dreamed it up on a ski trip New Year’s Eve 2016. While riding the lift, we were talking about what we wanted our futures to look like. We both loved the outdoors, we both love skiing, I wanted a thriving creative community to pursue an art career, and he wanted a strong tech scene to continue growing his own knowledge. What better place could you imagine but Denver?

For a year it was just an idea, but by the beginning of 2018 my husband was offered an amazing opportunity. We both had great jobs in Washington D.C. but we were ready for a change, and why not now? We both saw the opportunity and ran with it. I had a final art show in January, and two weeks later our two cats and I traveled cross-country to set up house. By the end of February, this was our home. When I realized I could walk to MCA Denver, and heard about Octopus Initiative, it was really the quintessential ‘icing on the cake.’ Everything had fallen into place and made sense.

How’d you get involved with the Octopus Initiative?

When we arrived in Denver, I really wanted to hit the ground running, and didn’t waste any time following MCA on social media and finding events in the creative community. Low and behold, here is this amazing museum down the street, and there’s a FREE event promoting this thing called Octopus Initiative.

Being from Washington D.C. the land of all that is historic and Smithsonian, I thought, there is no way I am understanding this correctly.

You’re telling me, that a museum, the physical manifestation of every mom’s saying, ‘Look with your eyes, and not with your hands,’ is going to give leading artist’s commissioned work to a stranger?

So, they can then take it out of the museum, fully framed and ready to hang?

To their own homes, to decorate their walls, wherever they want?

Completely unsupervised?

For almost a year?

For free?

I mean honestly, with that sort of incentive, why would you not go to check out this madness? Except, it wasn’t madness. No, these were not cat thieves climbing into the studios of Denver’s best artists. Octopus Initiative was a well-oiled machine. An amazing, albeit ambitious, opportunity to connect artists with their fans, and the friends and family of those fans, to a piece of artwork that they may have never seen if it weren’t adorning one of the walls of their home. How great is that, and why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it!

Abstract artwork of architectual trim appears to be floating against a blank white background

What drew you to “hearting” Derrick’s Trim Void 16?

I remember when I saw Derrick’s ‘Trim Void 16,’ it was hanging on one of the first racks, and placed with some of Laura Shill’s work from her ‘Absent Lovers’ series (also an amazing artist and participant). Trim Void was so different from the monochromatic figures surrounding it, and honestly, from the aesthetic, I’m drawn to in my own work. There’s really no way it couldn’t stand out in that setting.

I loved the simplicity and architectural style of the piece. He uses these great, bold, primary colors that we all recognize, but the shapes are much more abstract and geometric, almost obtuse. It’s a great contrast to the small, but very intricate, collage elements he uses as detailing for each shape. It almost looks like printed images of Victorian crown molding or an upside-down Roman column, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, it creates a lot of movement and makes everything pop. Derrick left Trim Void 16’s center as blank white paper, so all of this color and detailing is going on around the edges. It leads the viewer to constantly be moving their gaze around and around the piece. It’s very playful, almost like a merry-go-round for your eyes!

A graphic reading "Holy Shit you won!!!" Here's the work you're taking home"

How’d you react when you heard you won?

It’s funny, because I’d just been thinking about how it had been about a month since signing up for the raffle. It was one of those passing thoughts like,

Should I have spoonfuls of Nutella, or yogurt for dessert?

Would I rather fly, or breath underwater?

Whatever happened with that Octopus Initiative raffle?

Low and behold, in my email the following Sunday night, was a message that I had won! I’m pretty sure I jumped off out of bed and screamed, then did a happy dance with our cats, but you’d have to verify the amount of shared enthusiasm with my husband.

It was too late to post anything, or send a mass texts, and I think I was still shocked that I won. So, I did the logical next step, I took a screenshot of the email to share my excitement in the morning and started following Derrick Velasquez on Instagram. I was also sure to send a message to my Mom. She’s an artist as well, and really interested in the Octopus Initiative when I first told her I’d signed up. I knew she would be just as excited that I had won.

Black and white image of a woman holding a box that reads Octopus Initiative

One of our goals with the Octopus Initiative is to connect people with local artists. Have you had a chance to connect with Derrick yet?

When I first learned I’d won the raffle, I took a dive down the rabbit hole of Derrick Velasquez' background in the Denver area. I truly didn’t realize that he not only creates his own artwork, but also has extensive curatorial experience. It was so awesome to see that he’s worked on projects with pillars of Denver’s art community like ‘The Stacks’ at MCA, and ‘Transforming Milk into Milk’ With Redline. The thing I loved most though, was that he founded the ‘Yes Ma’amProject,’ which provides grants to selected artists in the Denver community.

We also started following one another on social media, which to me is super cool. Especially since I have such an interest in growing as a professional artist myself. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll get coffee and become besties, or he’ll see some of my work and want it to decorate his own home.

Have you figured out where you’re going to hang the work?

After all this ranting about how much I loved my whole experience, would you believe that I haven’t yet? Yea, me neither. I think one of the first things my husband and I did was try to figure out where the ideal hanging spot would be for ‘Trim Void 16.’ In the end, I think it was harder to figure out a safe place to put the handling box, so our cats wouldn’t take possession of it. Currently, it’s holding court near our front entrance above a handmade table, and directly in the center of our art wall. It has optimal exposure to foot traffic, and great lighting, so it worked out great there. We get to see it every day, it’s safely out of reach for any four-legged admirers, and our guests get a chance to take a look while they visit