It’s like any other competition, but in this one the winner will be immortalized for future generations.
“We are about all Canadians, not just the great and famous,” said Lilly Koltun, director general of the Portrait Gallery of Canada. “We are going to have a body of work that represents a living Canada.”

Koltun was at the Dalhousie University Art Gallery yesterday to introduce a new program inviting Canadians to nominate individuals they believe should be the subjects of portraits that will hang in the gallery — which Halifax is one of the cities vying to be home to.

Entries in the competition, called Choose Our Muse, will be judged by a panel who will decide what three submissions should be included in the gallery.

“We are asking Canadians to not just name famous people they think should be in the collection,” said Koltun. “People who made a contribution, whether they are famous or not.”

Artists are also being asked to submit their names to the gallery. These artists will later by selected by the subject to do their portrait. The hope is that the same program will be repeated every two years, with three additional portraits of Canadians added each time.

“I was completely, 100-per-cent surprised,” said Maria Valverde, who was among the artists at yesterday’s announcement. She is planning to submit work to the gallery to be considered.

“You would be surrounded by such an amazing group of Canadians who contributed so much to this country. It would be an honour.”

Koltun said she is no longer sure who first came up with the idea to involve Canadians in the process.

“Many portrait galleries do commission work, so the idea of doing it is not new. What is new is that we want to involve Canadians in the whole process,” she said. “We wanted a way to connect with all Canadians.

“It means we have something we can give to the children of the future.”

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