Stunning art, discerningly selected and impeccably presented. These are the reasons Perivale Gallery is the premier art destination of Manitoulin Island, and one of the most prestigious art galleries in all of northern Ontario.
Founded more than 38 years ago, the exceptional gardens and grounds of Perivale Gallery showcase masterworks by Ivan Wheale, Jay Favot, Linda Finn, Judy Martin, Hadyn Butler, Lisa Free, Lauren Satok, Jamie Brick, Cathy Boyd, and others.
Come and see for yourself how this remarkable, carefully-curated art destination rivals any large city gallery in its stunning park-like setting overlooking the shimmering waters of Lake Kagawong.
Perivale Gallery showcases original work by a diverse group of exceptional Canadian contemporary fine artists, sculptors and artisans in a variety of media and styles The gallery is open to the public from May Long Weekend to mid- June Friday , Saturday and Sunday from 10 – 5 and then DAILY until mid-September.
Edwards Studios & Art Gallery is an independently owned and operated family art gallery located along the North Shore of Kagawong, Manitoulin Island. The Art Gallery was established in 1996 by Richard and Barbara Edwards. After moving to Kagawong in 1993, Richard and Barbara worked from their home studios until they transformed the upper story of the historical Old Mill into a working studio and art gallery. The Art Gallery showcases many local artists work from Manitoulin Island and surrounding areas. The gallery is open to the public from May Long Weekend to Thanksgiving weekend. All original handcrafted works of art, paintings, original serigraphs, etching, pottery, stained glass, hot glass, carving, batik on silk, jewelry, clothing, textile art and custom framing.
Island community museums are filled to bursting with mementos of collective histories, gathered by dedicated volunteers and local families keen to foster appreciation of their area’s past. Kagawong’s Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum collections are housed in the former pulp mill, built of stone in 1925 at the edge of Mudge Bay to process the products of the booming logging industry; the atmospheric limestone enclave with its soaring ceilings and tall windows is a perfect showcase for the Billings Township memorabilia contained within.
Curators, by and large, are an enthusiastic lot and Rick Nelson, the Kagawong Museum’s curator, is a prime example of the kind of fervor that marks a successful collection. Quick to praise Billings council’s museum board volunteers’ initiatives and hard work, Mr. Nelson has been the face of the museum for the last 10 years, greeting visitors and orienting them to the treasures awaiting.
Immediately upon entering, the sound and images emanating from a film on the Indigenous origins of Manitoulin Island grounds the museum experience in earliest inhabitation. Further on, a little room holds the delicate line drawings of talented local artist Jenna Carter, each featuring one of the many intact historical structures within the village of Kagawong, with an accompanying map that describes the genesis of all the buildings–for a walkabout later. In the corner, a 1930s wooden radio cabinet plays WWII broadcasts, surrounded by sepia toned photos of local men and women who contributed to the efforts of both World Wars, their uniforms, medals and stories now behind glass.
A highlight in this section is the story of Don Freeborn, the Chapleau-born Manitoulin resident who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Lancaster Bomber pilot, attached to Britain’s Royal Air Force during WWII. His log book on exhibit documents his successful mission to bomb Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the mountains of Bavaria. Next to his father’s log book is the log of Peter Clarke, the son Don Freeborn did not know, until the end of his life, he had fathered in England during the war, and who also had a distinguished military career in Afghanistan, Burma and undercover elsewhere for the British Special Forces. The uniforms of father and son are displayed crisply side by side.
Early settlers to the area, the Graham, Gray, Thompson, McGuiness and Lloyd clans, are posed in the stiff attire and settings of late 19th century photographs. New this year is the realistic recreation of a blacksmith’s shop from the days when horses were essential to settlers’ daily lives. The boat building activities of the Berry family are displayed in authentic period examples of their fine work for over a hundred years, renowned for the sturdy construction of commercial fishing boats, timber tugs and launches powered by steam boilers. Still located in Kagawong and operated by Oliver Newlands, great-grandson of founder Oliver Berry, Berry Boats carries on the family boat building tradition today.
One of Rick Nelson’s favorite museum exhibits recounts the tragedy of the scion of Detroit’s Dodge automobile empire, Danny Dodge, who, in 1938, suffered grave wounds in a spectacular dynamite blast at his Dodge Lodge in Kagawong, then drowned on a desperate rescue mission to Little Current by boat with his wife. Married just 14 days to “Gore Bay beauty” Laurine MacDonald, a romance and fantasy wedding that were trumpeted in local and US media, the unfortunate Mr. Dodge died at 21 but was destined to live on in local legend.
The 80th anniversary of the accident will be commemorated by the Old Mill Heritage Centre on Thursday, August 9 in the annual History Day presentations at 3:30 and 7:30 pm. Each presentation features two parts: a talk by guest speakers on the founding Henry brothers and their role in the birth of Kagawong will be followed by the story of the gripping disaster at Dodge Lodge.
Another ‘ghost story’ depicted in the museum and endlessly fascinating to Mr. Nelson is the one about Harbour Island. Off the coast of Kagawong and nestled in a bay of Clapperton Island, the 30-acre island was home to a luxurious resort in the 40s, 50s and 60s that berthed the yachts of Hollywood stars and hosted the likes of Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and countless sports figures and business tycoons. Clippings of the goings-on of the celebrity guests cover the wall near photos of the resort in its heyday; underneath is a photo of the sad state of the resort today. “There’s a happy ending!” crows Mr. Nelson as we gaze at the overgrown site and the derelict mid-century modern building. “The new owner of Harbour Island is a descendant of the original owners who is committed to restoring the property to its former glory. The Museum may consider perhaps partnering on a ‘living museum’ concept down the road.”
To whet the appetite for such a restoration project, the Mudge Bay Mystery Tour, a partnership between the Museum and North Channel Cruise Line, will lift anchor on Saturday, August 25 from Kagawong for a two-hour cruise to Harbour Island with dinner, bar and curator Rick Nelson’s onboard “stories and slides” of the famed resort’s past grandeur.
After a tour of the Museum, pause at the Billings Connections Trail Interactive Map on the wall by reception. In English, French and Ojibwe languages, the map shows the locations of historical plaques in the village and of the outdoor sculpture sites commissioned as a Truth and Reconciliation project in partnership with 4Elements and Billings Township “to highlight the local heritage and history of Anishinaabeg and settler residents.” A pocket-sized map is available to take on an exploration that continues well beyond the Museum’s steps.
Isobel Harry is a photographer and writer who has also worked extensively in the field of human rights advocacy. Her photos have been widely exhibited and she has published articles in many magazines; as programmes director and executive director for PEN Canada for twenty years, she worked on behalf of the right to freedom of expression internationally.
Now living on Manitoulin Island, Isobel works as a freelance writer and photographer and is a frequent contributor to the weekly Manitoulin Expositor newspaper and the annual This is Manitoulin magazine.
Her interests lie at the intersection of arts, culture and human rights.
The Bridal Veil Falls trail system is located in Kagawong. Although there is access to the trail system at Bridal Veil Falls, which is adjacent to Hwy 540, there are much safer and roomier parking options in the lower hamlet of Kagawong, including at the Park Center and in the vicinity of the river mouth. Park in lower Kagawong and enjoy the river trail system/falls on foot – you get the best of both worlds! The lower village includes other points of interest, and both the upper and lower village have unique shops. Note that the Bridal Veil Falls trail system is also part of the new Billings Connections Trail and includes access to several of the new public sculptures and heritage plaques installed as part of the Billings Canada 150 project.
You may wish to bring:
Tips from a Local
Some of the longer hikes on Manitoulin can take hours to complete. Pack some trail snacks in reusable containers to keep your energy up and make sure to not leave any scraps on the trail.
Kagawong is a sprawling, unusually shaped lake. I’ve seen it described as an “upside down trident,” but to me it looks most like a Danforth anchor, the long thin bay to the north being the shank, and the two deep bays to the south the flukes.
The lake is 100 feet above Lake Huron, according a long-time cottager on the lake, and unlike the Island’s other large lakes, this one drains into the North Channel. The outlet is the Kagawong River, which plummets over a cliff at famed Bridal Veil Falls, then winds and tumbles past the village into Mudge Bay.
Like Lake Mindemoya, Kagawong has the distinction of having a large island. Kakawaie Island, as it’s called, is a long, thin island in the lake’s large southeast bay. A geologist who cottages on Kagawong believes this island is an esker. It’s privately owned, but uninhabited. It spans 90 acres and boasts a sand beach that people sometimes use for picnics, according to a member of the Dawson family, whose grandparents established Dawson Resort on East Perivale Road, in 1934, to augment their farming business. Deer are often seen swimming from Kakawaie Island to the mainland, the operator of Dawson resort adds.
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In 1867, the year of Canada’s formation, the lake was considerably less populated. In Exploring Manitoulin, author Shelley Pearen writes that when the township was surveyed in that confederation year, just three native families lived in the village of Kagawong, one of which had “gardens of potatoes and corn…on the east shore of Lake Kagawong.”
The first European settlers in the area, according to Ms. Pearen, was a French-Canadian named Luke Chatreau, who built a cabin on Lake Kagawong around 1872.
Things have certainly changed in the intervening 150 plus years, but there are still long stretches of Lake Kagawong’s shorelines that remain undeveloped. One area I’d heard about that was particularly interested in seeing is a steep rockface known as Redrock, so named because the sunset occasionally paints its white limestone surface crimson.
Asking when I contacted a friendly cottager and mentioned that I was keen to see these rocks turn red. Would he take me out in the evening, so I could experience this phenomenon? No problem, he said.
I arrived at his place around 8 pm.
We walked down the steep, switch-backing stairs, to the water. This, in itself, surprised me. I hadn’t realized that Kagawong had such precipitous shores. But the shoreline at the camp was nothing compared to the topography on the other; eastern side of the bay.
Redrock. It wasn’t red yet, it was too early, and anyway the sun had dropped behind a cloud but it was steep, I could see that even from a distance.
Enroute, in my friend’s fishing boat, he filled me in on the fauna and aquatic life on the lake. Mink regularly runs along the shore, for instance. A wide variety of fish flourish in its depths, pike, walleye, perch, smallmouth bass (enough of the latter that a popular bass derby is held each August.) Pickerel (Walleye) are now a game species in the lake thanks to the efforts of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club. A golden eagle is presently nesting on a tree on the “flats” along northeast shore of the lake. He pointed out several mergansers, and at one point a pair of loons flew overhead.
Then we were cruising along below the cliff known as Redrock. From a distance it had looked sheer and smooth, but up close it was full of caves, crags, crumbling ledges, cedars clinging stubbornly to its slopes. “What I tell people is that you’re looking at thousands of years of history here,” my friend says. “And it’s always changing. Mother Nature keeps carving away at it.”
He gazed at the steep, crenellated cliff, and grinned.
“The strangest thing I ever saw here was a baby raccoon, hanging off the cliff with one arm, it must have fallen or something.”
A more unsettling image is that of the deer which, according to Mrs. Dawson, are occasionally seen plummeting off the cliff.
“So, I guess they are bucks fighting for territory,” she mused.
I didn’t see any acrobatic raccoons or falling bucks. Nor any red hue. But it was still beautiful. Farther down there were cottages, holes blasted from the rock to allow water access for boats. (Blasting is not allowed now.)
Then we were heading back across the bay, Redrock behind us, and I’d pretty much given up on the idea of seeing that rockface turn red, when suddenly the sun slipped out from below some clouds, and I turned my head, and there, just as promised, was a brief ruddy glow. The rocks were turning red! I tried to take a picture, but we were too far away. I didn’t have a zoom, it wasn’t going to work.
But I saw it. The rocks turned red.
We chugged back across the bay of Lake Kagawong, just me and my pal, the sun now sunk behind the western shoreline, the clouds above looking bruised and luminous.
And when we glanced back to the east, we suddenly saw a full moon rising over that shore, a huge, pregnant orb, glowing an unearthly orange.
Another Lake Kagawong attraction, also on Perivale Road East, is the Perivale Gallery which has become a destination on its own for art lovers. Proprietor Shannon McMullen features primarily Northern Ontario artists (although not exclusively) and her busy gallery is the sole venue to sell the landscape painting of famed Manitoulin artist Ivan Wheale.
Ms. McMullan is pleased that, even though her gallery closes around Thanksgiving each year, it typically remains at or very close to the top of Trip Advisor’s most popular attractions through the cold months.
The Perivale Gallery also offers a series of weekend art classes through the summer, most of them at the nearby Spring Bay Community Hall on Highway 542 in that village. The gallery also has a special two week mid-summer show, ‘In the Spirit of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven’ that is special and unique in Northern Ontario.
On Lake Kagawong features both sunlit and shaded sites (water and electric hookups). Modern central washrooms, showers, laundry. Good fishing for bass, pike, perch and some pickerel. Boat launch, dockage and motorboats for rent. Ramp and docking.
Store and live bait for you great fishing days in Lake Kagawong, the North Channel (boat launch at nearby Kagawong) or any of Manitoulin’s bounteous lakes and streams.
Your retreat on our Island of fresh air and sparkling waters, centrally located on the eastern shores of Lake Kagawong only 3 km south of delightful Kagawong village.
1,2,3 and 4 bedroom cottages, each with fireplace/woodstove/electric heat too. Fully equipped kitchens, BBQ and private baths with shower. Shallow sandy swimming area. Playground (tetherball, beach volleyball, horseshoes). Boat, motor and canoe rentals. A clean comfortable resort for the whole family, close to shops, churches, medical services, golf, hiking, farmers’ markets and more.