In 2003, Bryce Kanbara was a brave pilgrim when he opened the You Me Gallery on James Street North in Hamilton. The street was ever so slowly morphing a new identity. Italian and Portuguese grocery stores were still a fixture, but so was crime and a shaky future.
But an artist driven rebirth was gathering steam. Through it all, Kanbara’s gallery was and still is, a steady anchor deep at the northerly end of the street.
At You Me, shows by new artists, old artists, outsider artists and angry artists are welcomed. He has music and talks, potato chips, wilted flowers and wine in plastic cups at openings, and peaceful demonstrations here and there. It is a vibe alive.
Today, against the odds, You Me Gallery remains planted on a street that is rapidly shedding its art identity. For his gallery success, and arts contribution dating back to the 1970’s, Kanbara has won the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
He too is a gifted artist, a bold mark maker, a sorcerer at making bits of drywall into thoughtful sculpture, Kanbara’s art is open and confident.
The vibe is alive
His open mindedness is reflected in the many shows at You Me. Source materials used by artists include twigs, branches, cardboard, metal fence bits, wash buckets, shipping tags and car springs. Some use paint too. His annual Whirlygig show is a bolt of humour and inventiveness in sultry August. And he never shies from shows with a forceful, political point of view.
I know Bryce a bit. He is a careful speaker. When I started out making collages, I asked his opinion of my work. He quietly walked around looking at the pieces and finally said, “I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Kanbara is a deserving winner of the GG award. As is his way, he has thanked all those who have influenced his career as partners who share in the award.
The Governor General’s award selected by the Canada Council for the Arts comes with a $25,000 prize. Kanbara said he plans to use some of the prize money to care for a property in Japan where his father lived. He makes it available to other Japanese-Canadians and artists. There were seven other artists joining Kanbara in the honor for 2021.
For more information
Canada Council for the Arts : https://en.ggarts.ca/
More art news in the Bay Observer: https://bayobserver.ca/2021/02/22/gallery-on-the-bay-closing/
See video portrait of Bryce Kanbara: