Why You Need to Head to the Drake Devonshire This Summer

A picturesque setting, farm-fresh meals, and so. much. art.

When a Tuesday trip to the Drake Devonshire Inn makes you feel like it’s a Friday, you know there’s something special about the place. Not long ago, I headed east to Prince Edward County for a media preview of the boutique hotel’s annual summer outdoor art exhibit, Follow That Thought, and discovered that what makes this charming 13-room property unique isn’t just that it’s built on the bones of a foundry, circa 1897, or that it’s right on the shores of Lake Ontario, with vast views of its clear blue waters. What makes the experience of visiting or staying at the Drake Devonshire particularly interesting is its immersive approach to art.

While hotels tend to favour a straightforward tactic—read: paintings, walls—the Devonshire allows the space itself to dictate the kind of artwork to place there. In addition to the hotel’s permanent collection, the property also hosts an annual summer outdoor art exhibit, featuring pieces from Canadian as well as international artists. Which means, at any given time, there’s art pretty much everywhere: strung above a creek, plastered along an entire outdoor wall, splashed across the side of a barn, and standing tall in an overgrown garden.

“The collection is built on three core principles,” explains Mia Nielsen, Director of Art + Culture at The Drake. “One is honouring a crafts tradition. I often think of rural life as being really closely associated with the handmade so you’ll see that through the collection. Second: a sense of history. The piece at the entrance by Kirsten Hassenfeld, called Cabin Fever, is made with vintage papers so there are a lot of historic wrapping papers, wallpapers and all kinds of things. The third pillar is birds. I wanted to have a touchpoint for the collection that calls back to this area, to this place because it’s a rural property; you gotta talk about the land! One thing that I find really interesting about the county is that it’s a really important area for migrating birds. It’s astounding the kinds of birds that you see at any time of year. And so with the works by Don Maynard, birdO, Jennifer Murphy… there’s birds everywhere.”

This year’s summer art exhibit, on display until November 10, includes a photographic sculpture by Letha Wilson, a multiple-piece work along an entire wall by Bryce Wymer (“I wanted something that was really vibrant and something that calls to you the many ways we can enjoy this natural world, toes in the water, touching flowers and stuff,” explains Nielsen), and a bronze sculpture by An Te Lieu, based on the casts of Styrofoam that are typically used for packing electronics and consumer goods.

“Even if the decor stays the same, the artwork is that touch point with the current moment,” says Nielsen. “I often talk about creating moments of wonder, and also what it means to be right here, right now. With all the environmental concerns we have right now… we needed An Te!”

Also new right now? The Devonshire’s outdoor kitchen, dubbed Creekside Kitchen. Sunny yellow picnic tables and an outdoor roasting pit make it the perfect spot for a lazy summer meal with a focus on fresh, organic produce from nearby vineyards and local farms. Later this summer, the Drake is also taking its Popera show on the road. The pop-up opera, typically held at the Drake 150 downtown a few times a year, is heading east for one night only, on August 26. In partnership with the Canadian Opera Company, the event sees performances by up-and-coming artists from the company’s Ensemble Studio, and includes oysters and champagne at the Creekside Kitchen plus a family-style dinner by the lake.

Click through for images of the hotel and its cheery, art-filled rooms.