Bentwood box charity auction helps Indigenous youth

Burnaby artist is at the heart of an annual fundraising event by the Lattimer Gallery

A Burnaby artist is at the heart of a charity auction for the Urban Native Youth Association.

James Michels, a Métis/Cree artist who lives in Burnaby, created dozens of blank bentwood boxes for the Lattimer Gallery’s annual bentwood box silent auction – a task he’s been undertaking every year for the past 12 years.

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Michels and 14 other First Nations artists transform the boxes into works of art that are auctioned off to support the Urban Native Youth Association, a Vancouver organization that has been providing prevention-focused programs and services since 1988.

A silent auction of all the boxes got underway Nov. 23 and continues until Dec. 7, when all the works will be displayed at an artist reception and exhibition. That’s on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Lattimer Gallery at the Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut St.

Michels has a long history with the bentwood box art form. He apprenticed with acclaimed Coast Salish artist Joseph Campbell and also spent considerable time observing master artists at the K’san Native Art School. His bentwood boxes and carved panels can be viewed in most of the major galleries of Northwest Coast artwork in both Canada and the U.S.

His artwork has been purchased by former President Bill Clinton, former prime minister Paul Martin and legendary singer Joni Mitchell, among others.

For the charity auction, Michels’ work will be offered alongside boxes carved by a wide range of up-and-coming and acclaimed Indigenous artists, including Corrine Hunt, KC Hall and Michelle Stoney.

All of the work involved in the creation of the boxes is donated. Michels did the steam-bending and constructing; Lattimer Gallery donates the promotion and all the collected money; and all the participating artists donate their finished products.

That means 100% of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to charity.

People can bid on the pieces by phone, email or person. You can check them out at Lattimer Gallery’s website at Photos of the work are displayed along with current bids; bids can increase by increments of $100.

Bidding closes Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.

Last year’s auction raised $90,000, bringing the total funds raised through this event to more than $400,000.

The event also has another Burnaby connection – the owner of Lattimer Gallery, Peter Lattimer, also lives in Burnaby. He’s the grandson of the original owners, Leona and David Lattimer, who founded the gallery in 1986.

See for more, or check out more of Michels’ work at


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