The Globe’s Roy MacGregor offers up a moment of silence for Pipe Man


The haters won.

That was the message of a story in today’s The Globe and Mail by renowned writer and former Huntsville resident Roy MacGregor which thrusts Pipe Man — and Huntsville — back into national view. It was prompted by an announcement at Tuesday’s town council meeting that Pipefusion wants its controversial art donation back.

The floating sculpture was a gift to the Town of Huntsville in commemoration of Pipefusion’s 35th anniversary. It was removed from the Muskoka River in late October with council intending to find another suitable — read less contentious — location for it. But Jan Nyquist, Pipefusion’s owner, was having none of it.

“We didn’t want to play that game,” Nyquist told MacGregor. “We didn’t want to engage in a forum that basically was, ‘Where is a good spot where it won’t upset anybody?'”

It was the Town’s public survey that sunk Pipe Man, notes MacGregor, adding it to “a long, long list of public art that seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Former Mayor Hugh Mackenzie told MacGregor that the survey “was nothing more than an invitation to the naysayers to vent their spleen. The result was predictable and divisive.”

There are people out there who actually seemed to enjoy hating it. Those people who really loved to hate it took it as their opportunity to have some say.
Mayor Scott Aitchison, as quoted by The Globe and Mail

Mayor Aitchison offered Nyquist an apology at Tuesday’s meeting. “I regret that we’re in this situation and I apologize for my role in it,” he said, adding that he intends to engage the community on the issue of public art.

In the meantime, as one local quipped, “What will we talk about now?”

Read The Globe and Mail story here and previous Doppler stories on Pipe Man here.

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  1. Victoria Mathies on

    Works of art always challenge us…but I am saddened more by the way people outside our community are being asked to see us…as “haters”, as ignorant Muskokans, etc. Finally, we, in Huntsville, are just people with all of the ordinary responses to a piece of artwork which challenged people’s vision of what they wanted for their town. No one was right or wrong…art is subjective and speaks to each of us differently. Can’t we just say, okay that wasn’t fun and move along?

    • no we can’t, because all this did was prove that if “art” is not pretty and adhering to some “civil” norms then it isn’t art. We want pretty pictures painted on the sides of buildings, not a sculpture that presses the notion of art to make the masses uncomfortable.
      It’s a shame and a black spot on this town. I feel for Mr. Nyquist and all his staff that had to but up with the vitriol that spewed from the HATERS!

      • I agree with Victoria. To call everyone who didn’t love Pipeman as HATERS is just a knee jerk reaction to those people who didn’t get their way (and were outvoted, BTW). There are a lot of us that either just didn’t like the thing or, like me, didn’t like the location. We’re not haters, just PREFERRERS, who would prefer to have it in a different place, or prefer not to have it in such public place. As I said before, thank Jan for his civic-mindedness – we should all do that. In response to Dave, yes, I want the things I think of as ‘art’ to appeal to me on some level. Take a bunch of people who think this way and we have ‘culture’. Why accuse the people as HATERS? Perhaps they are simply well-meaning people who think that an object is not artistic (and they understand that people have different perceptions of art than they do and they allow them that right. Respectfully.)

    • Please Mr. MacGregor:

      Huntsville did not need to be ‘thrust back into the national light’ again via your current article in the Globe & Mail.
      We are very involved in being kind to one another this season, as always.

      Please respect Mr. Nyquist’s announced decision to move on,

      Please respect our citizens who want their Muskoka scenery served ‘straight up’,

      Please respect those who are passionate about public art, without name calling those who disagree with them.

      I hope you too will ‘move on’ & find other topics to comment on.

      • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

        For the record, Roy MacGregor did not call the good people of Huntsville ‘haters’. That word was applied by Doppler as a synopsis to MacGregor’s article. Please read the Globe article in its entirety before commenting on Roy’s words.

        • I think the article as originally presented gave the impression that’s what was said, that’s the way I saw it, perhaps that’s why you didn’t print my opinion letter. If it bothers you that the message was interpreted that way then don’t sensationalize.

          • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

            Thomas, My apologies. I did not see your original comment. I have restored it and it is now visible.

  2. Oh my god! Sounds like what’s going on in the states with lovers and haters.
    Our good mayor however well intentioned he may have been really didn’t have the right to speak for ALL the residents in Huntsville on this particular topic.
    Make no mistake he has done a great job in most respects so far as I am concerned but this subject is dead, bury it, and forget it.
    Further a reporter from out of town has no business sticking his nose in this either.
    It’s done, leave it alone.

  3. Who cares what public opinion is on art, love it or hate it, that is the point. The fact that it was removed due to some kind of weird negative opinion is totally absurd. The Mayor should resign over his causing this divisive split immediately. This is a blow to the culture that Huntsville has been building over the years. Shall we just ignore the illiterate and move on.

  4. As a seasonal resident, I don’t see Huntsville as a community of “haters”, but only as a community without the collective courage to be distinctive. This piece on the river provided an opportunity for Huntsville to show some pride in its heritage. I feel sorry for your (our) lack of willingness (pride?) to do so.

  5. Karen Wehrstein on

    Before criticizing Roy MacGregor for calling Huntsvillians haters, please read the Globe and Mail article. He never uses the word. Closest he gets to doing so is quoting Mayor Aitchison thus: “There are people out there who actually seemed to enjoy hating it. Those people who really loved to hate it took it as their opportunity to have some say.” The term “hater” to me means someone who hates habitually, i.e. more than just one thing, and the mayor isn’t accusing anyone of doing so here, nor even saying that everyone who voted to move Pipe Man elsewhere hates it.
    Criticisms of the survey for allowing anonymity are misplaced, as anonymity is normal and necessary both for surveys and elections. That double voting was permitted does not de-legitimize the overwhelming result as 1) we can’t say that only anti-Pipe-Man voters voted twice and 2) even if that were the case, removing one of their two votes would only change the majority from 90% (90-10 per 100 votes) to 82% (45-10 per 55 votes), which is still a landslide. So I’m not sure why either of you, Hugh & Scott, emphasized these arguments to MacGregor.
    My sense is that the public objection and the intensity of emotion behind it was based not on disliking art generally or the piece per se — which I think is why Beverley Hawksley hasn’t been lambasted, as MacGregor fair-mindedly notes — but on the feeling that, placed where it was without a survey beforehand, it was an imposition. That stretch of river is central to Huntsville, a beloved vista emblematic of the town, its natural surroundings and of the harmony that is possible between nature and edifice. Placed centrally, Pipe Man suddenly dominated and therefore altered entirely the river view from the bridge, from River Mill Park, from all the waterfront eateries and pubs, and from all passing watercraft. I think both residents and tourists were justified in thinking, “Who put that right smack in the middle of the scenery so I have no choice but to see it, without asking?” The comparison was made to the town’s ubiquitous Tom Thomson murals; but those only cover blank walls, and none of them so completely dominate so large or central a view.

  6. Kathy hendersons on

    I am not going to get dragged into a debate of what is art and why I voted for the removal of the pipeman. The majority vote won like the majority should. Calling us haters is immature. It seems like if people don’t agree on something or have their own opinion on something the name calling starts. Homophobic, Prejudice, Haters. Really? One comment was we don’t have the collective courage to be different? That’s nonsense.

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