Published: April 23, 2019

A prolific artist who exhibits nationally and internationally, Joel Swanson is having a successful spring. On April 15, his work, "Binary Pronouns," began streaming on 150 Mediastream, a 150-foot long by 22-foot high array of 89 LED blades located in the lobby of the iconic 150 North Riverside building in Chicago. Earlier in the month, he joined a distinguished group of artists in the Octopus Initiative, an innovative art-loaning program linked to Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art that allows members to live with a work of contemporary art in their homes for several months before returning it to the collective. 

Swanson explains, "Since the Museum of Contemporary Art isn't a collecting museum and can’t technically buy artwork to support local artists, the Octopus Initiative is a way to support local artists and get their work into the hands of the public. They commission local artists to produce 25 works that then go on loan to the public through a free raffle system."

The brainchild of Adam Lerner, exiting director of the MCA, the Octopus Initiative maintains a rigorous evaluative process, beginning with a nomination from a leading member of the Denver arts community, followed by a review by Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art’s curatorial team who evaluates a nominee's suitability for the program, conducting studio visits and reviewing a wide body of work.

Swanson, who earned a BFA in digital art from CU Boulder, has exhibited his work extensively, including the Venice Biennale 2017; Republic Plaza in Denver (solo exhibition through June 12); the Broad Museum in Lansing, Michigan; The Power Plant in Toronto; the North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art; and Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, where he had a solo exhibition.