Craig Bakay | Jun 05, 2019
For the past six years, Randal and Darlene Doner have been inviting people to their home/studios down at the eastern end of Washburn Road.
It’s right on the Rideau Canal system, Brewers Mills Lock to be exact, and the studio is the old grist mill from which the lock presumably takes its name.
The Doners form a rather artistic family. Randal is a metal sculptor. Darlene makes jewelry. Daughters Rachel and Miranda are art consultants. Son Luke does corporate interiors and his wife, Katie, is a painter and commercial artist.
And they have a lot of friends who are also very artistic. So, it should come as no surprise that they invited about 50 of them to come and be part of the 2019 Doner Studio Art Festival last weekend.
The grounds are more spacious than they might first appear and it took a good hour to wander around and see everything. Painters, sculptors and artisans of every stripe were on display and there was a steady crowd of visitors making the rounds.
“We used to do a lot of art shows since 1996,” Randal said. “Then we got to an age where we wanted to slow down a bit — we haven’t slowed down much.”
In 2003, the Doners were visiting his parents on Easter Weekend. They were looking for something just like the mill.
“We went to look at it and I said ‘we have to buy this right now,’” he said. “I was prepared to give them the asking price but the real estate agent convinced us to put in a lower bid because it needed a lot of work.”
It was work his dad, an artist himself, was prepared to do They moved in in 2003.
While the art and music was the main attraction of the event, there was also a pleasant surprise on hand for visitors that ventured into the old mill itself.
Keith Kiell, who ran the mill for 25 years while his father, Jeff, owned it.
At 92, Kiell may have slowed a bit, but his memory is sharp as a tack.
“He’ll talk your ear off,” said Darlene.
“This is my wife, Evelyn,” he said. “We’ve been married for 70 years and so far, we haven’t had one argument.”
What about the mill Keith?
“Oh, McBroom owned it and my father rented it,” he said. “At one time, it provided the first electricity to Gananoque.
“I started running it in March of 1944 til 1968.
“We used to grind grain for the farmers using a thirty-horse, 550 volt electric motor because the water rights had been sold. That motor wasn’t big enough and it took a lot of maintenance.”
And that’s not all he did.
His father ran a grader for Pittsburgh Township, as did Keith (“for 27 years”).
“In 1942, I got a job on the survey crew that was mapping out routes for the 401,” he said. “I’m the last man standing from that crew.
“We planned out a route from Gan to Kingston and it almost went right through the heart of Kingston.
“They changed that to north of the city.”