Forty years ago, Nobuo Kubota made a decision that changed his life.


Already an architect for 10 years, the Vancouver native decided to dedicate himself to art and music instead.


He told his parents.


"They weren't pleased," he said.


His mom asked him why he couldn't be more like Raymond Moriyama, a fellow architect and Vancouver native who is also the son of a longtime family friend.

Yesterday, the men had more in common than Kubota's mom could ever have imagined as both were among the nine laureates of the 2009 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts, honoured at the National Gallery of Canada.

"I told (Moriyama) the story yesterday," said Kubota, a 77-year-old Toronto resident. "And we had a good laugh about it."

Looking back on the past 40 years, Kubota said he "could think of no better way to spend my life."
Other award recipients include sculpture artist John Greer, interdisciplinary artist Rita McKeough, filmmaker Robert Morin, painter Gordon Smith, glass sculptor Kevin Lockau, as well as Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje, who will share the outstanding contribution award for their work in establishing CARFAC, the Canadian Artists' Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens.

A Toronto architect responsible for the Canadian War Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia and the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Moriyama has won hundreds of awards, but called the Governor General's award "an honour."

The Canada Council for the Arts-funded awards recognize career achievements in and outstanding contributions to the visual and media arts. Governor General Michaëlle Jean will present the awards at a ceremony at Rideau Hall tonight.

"Each of this year's winners has had a significant impact on the Canadian arts scene," said Canada Council chair Joseph Rotman. "Their creativity is not only seen in galleries and homes across the country and around the world, but in the cities where we live and work."

"In the tough times we're in, and the tough times to come, the arts will help all people," Ondaatje said. "You can get through almost anything if you're creative. And everyone has creativity within them."

An exhibit featuring some of the artists’ works opens Friday.