Pipe Man will be removed from the Muskoka River by the end of November and consultations will take place this winter to determine where to relocate the art installation.
The issue has been contentious. At its September meeting, Huntsville Council received the results of a survey conducted by staff, which found that a majority of those who responded to the survey wanted the art installation removed from the river. At that meeting, a motion was introduced that if passed would have asked the donor to take back his donation and remove the installation from the river at his cost. Council was divided. Half voted in favour of the motion and half against. It was then that Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison, referring to the motion on the floor as disrespectful to the donor, artist and all those involved in the creation of the art donation, cast his vote and killed the motion, promising to meet with the donor to try and come up with a better solution.
That meeting has since taken place and council at its October 23 meeting agreed to entertain an alternative solution, one that would remove the art installation from the Muskoka River by no later than the end of next month and pending consultation with the donor, artist and community at large, come up with an alternative location.
I like the Pipe Man, we own it municipally, it was given to us, we accepted it and I believe that there is a good spot for the Pipe Man that will do it justice Huntsville Councillor Nancy Alcock
Alcock noted that she felt uncomfortable with the way things went at the last council meeting regarding the Pipe Man. She said that at the Mayor’s invitation, she took part in follow-up discussions with those involved in its creation and ultimate donation to the municipality and felt the meetings had gone well.
“They were quite amenable to responding favourably and understood I think the situation we found ourselves in,” said Alcock. “It was an educational meeting, really informative and they felt strongly that they want to be part of removing it out of the water so that it’s done properly,” she said.
Alcock said getting input from the community for Pipe Man’s new location is critical. “They need to know that we do listen but we need to hear from the people that care about it going somewhere else in our municipality. Personally I’m not interested in hearing from people who want to just shove it back and give it back because it is important that we keep it from my perspective and it’s also really important that Pipefusion (the donor) feels they have a stake in the new location.”
Alcock also said that in discussions with the donor and those involved with the installation, they are amenable to exploring locations that do not involve water.
Aitchison reiterated that he did not think the motion in September was appropriate and that consulting the community on an alternative location while championing public art was a better way to go.
Aitchison said during discussions with the artist, donor and his staff there were some concerns about being ridiculed or maligned again, based on some of the comments on social media. “I assured them that if I was moderating the public forum that I would cut them off immediately, that there’s no place for that. I also assured them that there is absolutely no way that we will please absolutely everybody in this community and if that’s our goal then we should all quit,” he said. “I think that we’ll have to do our best to come up with a consensus.”
Aitchison said that there will be some suggestions. He also said that along with hearing that it was predominantly the location of the Pipe Man that people did not like, he’s heard that people felt there should have been public consultation. “So, here we go. If nobody shows up I guess they weren’t serious. I think they are and they’ll show up. I think people want their roads fixed even though they didn’t show up for that public meeting,” he quipped, adding that he thinks a consensus will be found.
In the end, council voted in favour of taking the winter season to consult with the community as well as the artist and donor of the Pipe Man and come up with an alternative location, expected to make its way back to the council table for final approval next March. The donor has also offered to remove the art installation, now owned by the Town, at his cost.
Update, October 26: Crews began work today to remove Pipe Man from the Muskoka River:
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