An artist rendering of MCA Denver's Octopus Initiative, an art lending library.

(Courtesy Hunter Leggitt Studio)

You can check books out of a library, so why not art?

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver's new art lending library, called Octopus Initiative, opens Thursday. And it lets you borrow a painting for up to a year for free.

MCA launches the project with 150 works, all created by Denver artists, with the goal to offer as many as 500 paintings by 2020. 

Why the Octopus Initiative name? Adam Lerner, the museum's director and chief animator, says it's about "putting art in the hands of many."

Lerner tells Colorado Matters that as the city has grown, he's witnessed art spaces close and wanted to do something to help Denver artists get their work in front of more people. So the museum buys their art and then lets anyone display that art in their homes. 

The art isn't for sale -- it's not like a lease-to-own program. But Lerner says he hopes people will learn about Denver artists through the library, and that it will spark people's interest in buying other pieces from those artists. It will be organized through a lottery process, with the first winnters of the lottery will be announced on April 15.

Artists MCA commissioned for the library include Molly BoundsLaura Shill, Derrick Velasquez, Chris Oatey, Suchitra Mattai and Sierra Montoya Barela.

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