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West Kildonan artist in exclusive company

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A north Winnipeg artist has been chosen as one of a select few to have their work featured on products which will be sold across the country.

Sam Jarmasz, a fourth-year University of Manitoba arts student who resides in West Kildonan, was one of the nine winners chosen through the first-ever Generation Art challenge organized by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, and created in partnership with Canadian furniture company EQ3. She was also the only Manitoban artist selected.

"I was shocked," Jarmasz said, laughing.

"I was at work at the time, and I just quickly called my mom and explained it to her, because I never told anyone I’d entered the contest when I did enter it."
The initiative asked for artists between the ages of 15 and 30 years to submit works reflecting the theme "Imagine... A Better Community."

Peter Tielmann, CEO of EQ3, said the initiative is in keeping with the foundation’s work in using art to "promote social change," and the challenge was created when the furniture company began working out ideas with the foundation about a year ago.

"Eventually this is what came out of it," he said.

Jarmasz submitted a quartet of painted acrylic portraits of women from different cultures and ethnicities around the world. Painted separately but meant to be arranged side-by-side, the foursome was named World Beauty.

"The idea behind all of them was to show different beauties from different countries," she said.

"It’s just interesting to me, the different take they have on what they find is beautiful, and it’s the same with the other ones as well," she explained.

She had painted the pieces for a show last October. When the Generation Art opportunity came up, she thought it was just the right fit.

Judges for the contest agreed, and now World Beauty is featured on several of EQ3’s products, including pillows and notebooks. The pillows have been selling quite well in Winnipeg, and stock was scarce at the store’s Polo Park location last week.

Jarmasz joked it was likely the result of her family coming in and buying the items, adding they’re "very proud" of her success.

EQ3 managers say there have been plenty of other people seeking out the products as well.

"People are coming in asking ‘Who’s the artist from Winnipeg?’" said Jim Hunt, vice-president of retail operations for EQ3 in Winnipeg.

Neither the artists nor EQ3 gain any profit from the sale of the items: All of the proceeds go to the foundation.

"All proceeds go to the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, and they in turn give it to the organizations they work with," Tielmann said.

The artists selected did receive a $200 gift certificate, but the big prize is the exposure they get through being chosen, and the knowledge their work is helping to support the cause of artists across the country.

"Everybody is in it together," Tielmann said.

Having her work featured on items which will be found in Canadian homes is an odd feeling for Jarmasz, who isn’t used to so much exposure.

"It’s definitely strange... My friends are trying to encourage me to promote it more, but I just don’t know how to go about it," she said.

"I’m just not used to the attention."

She’s still very early into her career (she’ll be graduating next year), and Jarmasz said she’s just getting started.

"I still love it, every time I start a new project," she said.

"I’ve only been in one show so far, so hopefully more to come."
Tielmann says the goal is for Generation Art to become an annual event if it proves to be successful enough.

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