Husky the Muskie restoration job unpopular with Kenora residents

When the restoration of Kenora’s Husky the Muskie statue was revealed on June 22, some people thought it was less than fin-tastic. The 12-metre-tall local icon received a new paint job this spring, with funding from the federal government through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. Many people have taken to Facebook to voice their opinions.

“Put it back to the way it was,” said Sandra Alin-Willis, a Kenora local who says she isn’t fond of the statue’s new look. “It’s not our Husky the Muskie.”

Kristen Boucha, another resident of Kenora, says she wasn’t concerned when this update was first announced and agreed that the fish was in need of a touch-up. But, when the statue was unveiled, Boucha was surprised to see how much it had changed. “I don’t think anybody was expecting to have one fish covered up with the tarp and have it unveiled to be a completely different fish,” she says.

Boucha would like to see the statue changed. “Maybe kind of bring it back a little bit to what it used to be, or try and blend the two together to find a happy medium,” she says. Though, she doesn’t think a change is likely, given the amount of money that was spent on the project, and the fact that it was financed from a heritage fund.

Alin-Willis says the statue is dear to many in Kenora, having been around for so long. “A lot of people get their graduation and wedding pictures down there,” she says. “It was the first big thing they ever put up in Kenora, and the tourists love it.”

Bronson Carver, a local journalist for the Kenora Miner and News, wrote an opinion piece on the statue’s unveiling in late June. Carver says he thinks there are more pressing issues for the community to worry about than Husky the Muskie’s paint job, but he says he understands why the community reacted so strongly to the change.

“He was supposed to be a symbol of keeping the lake clean, taking care of the water, and obviously fishing,” Carver said in an interview, noting that the city of Kenora has deep historical and contemporary ties to fishing. “I think if anything else had a divisive paint job, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. You couldn’t find something that has more potential to be divisive than Husky the Muskie because people care about fishing.”

We put a call out in a Facebook group to see how people were feeling, and this is the response we received.

Some took issue with the fact that the renovation was not done by a local company or artist. The restoration was done by Alberta-based Dinosaur Valley Studios. “They definitely should have hired a local artist, they really had an opportunity to bring the community together, make it fun and include us,” wrote Suzanna Mary Alcock.

Both the city and the studio did not offer comment on this issue, but in a press release from the City of Kenora, the company’s president Frank Hadfield said: “After extensive research on the real fish, it was decided by our artists and designers to blend characteristics of the several sub-species of muskellunge, with a focus on the tiger muskie.”

“I personally don’t like it…but that’s my opinion…l think it looks too cartoonish,” wrote Annie Augustine.

More a tiger muskie now, they should have kept the natural look of muskies from our area,” wrote Terrence Kozak.

The studio also decided to give the muskie a brighter look to make it stand out from the surrounding area. “We also noted that the original colour blended in with the surrounding foliage so well, that it was difficult to notice Husky when driving by. We decided to lighten his background colour, so that he stood out from the trees a bit more,” Hadfield said in the press statement.

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