Not a joke anymore: RoboCop statue to be built in Detroit

Posted by David Gomez

It’s a good day to be a geek in Detroit. It only took six days of online fundraising to bring a RoboCop statue to the Motor City.

A collection of local artists and fans of the 1987 sci-fi classic exceeded the fund-raising goal of $50,000 this morning to build a sculpture of the crime-fighting, face-punching cyborg.

According to the Detroit Free Press, there has already been 1,500 donations and there are hundreds more pouring in every day at www.detroitneedsrobocop.com.

The group plans to continue raising funds until the March 29 deadline to make the statue "as big and good as possible," explained Detroit artist Jerry Paffendorf, who is helping to collect donations.

"This could be a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar KickStarter," Paffendorf said, referring to the online service hub for ideas looking for funding. "It's remarkable."

The statue has led to debates about whether or not a RoboCop statue has any artistic value. Some complain that a tribute to the main character of the movie, about a dystopian, crime-ridden Detroit, would hurt the city's image.

Other people have argued that it's a fun way to bring more attention to the struggling, but resilient city.

The fund-raising efforts began last week after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing politely rejected a suggestion on Twitter that RoboCop would help rehabilitate the city's image.

Even though the Tweet was a joke from a New England computer technician, fans of RoboCop gathered in cyberspace to call for a statue of their reanimated hero.

As soon as they figure out how much it will cost, a team of sculptures will build the sculpture from any number of materials. The group has been in contact with the Mayor's Office to discussing public spots, such as land near Comerica Park or a downtown park.

If that isn’t able to be worked out, the statue may end up at a place called Imagination Station, which is an outdoor art project cofounded by Paffendorf close to the deserted Michigan Central Station. A rundown place with no activity like the Michigan Central Station would very much resemble a scene in the movies.

Paffendorf and other local artists have hopes that RoboCop is just the start of a series of public art creations.

"With all of this publicity, we have a big opportunity to extend this to other projects in Detroit," Paffendorf said.

RoboCop’s supporters got a huge boost Tuesday when San Francisco businessman, Pete Hottelet, made a donation of $25,000.

"Despite everything, we live in a great country, and every day, there's an opportunity out there to do something awesome," Hottelet, owner of Omni Consumer Products, told the Free Press. "You just have to find it."

In a place where people have grown apathetic to the deterioration of their once great city, there is a little bit of hope for sci-fi geeks.

Sure, a giant public funded RoboCop can’t blow up the problems of economic deterioration and political corruption with a high powered rifle. But he may (eventually) herald the beginning of a new era of public art projects in Detroit. Hopefully, all of them will be sci-fi themed.

So what’s next for Detroit? I’m thinking a giant Transformer statue would be pretty kick ass. Most of the Transformer characters’ vehicle modes were made in Detroit - technically. I’m also thinking Bumble Bee could give the Joe Louis Memorial a pretty good fight.