Help Detroit build a Robocop statue

Photo: Aparna
Detroit's future has a silver lining: a statue of its legendary protector, Robocop. Denied funding by the cash-strapped city, the project's supporters set up a kickstarter project, which is already nearly half way to its $50,000 goal. The project came to be after a tweet sent to Detroit's mayor requesting the erection of said statue got a reply—in the negative. A Facebook group later and an offer of land by the Imagination Station (near Michigan Central Station) and the statue could soon be a done deal.
None of us have ever made a giant solid metal permanent sculpture before. It turns out to be a pretty expensive process (who would have thought?), but not too much for the world to fund. After talking to numerous sculptors and metal workers, the current game plan is this: We can take a relatively small figure of RoboCop (conceivably even an action figure), have it 3D scanned by lasers (cool!) and scale its form to create a light-weight model of any size we'd like, which can then be used to pour and cast liquid metal. Casey V. Westbrook and crew are currently leading the charge to create a weatherized 7 foot tall iron statue. Take a look at his work here. The last project Casey worked on was an epic action installation with Matthew Barney in Detroit. See a picture and read about it in Art Forum here.
People who pledge $100 will get a limited edition T-shirt with original artwork by project organizer John Leonard. $35 gets you a commemorative pin. Detroit needs a Robocop statue [Kickstarter.]


  1. how much of this money has to go to pay whoever owns the rights to the Robocop likeness? It is not in the public domain. (does Rob Bottin own the rights or did he sell them?)

    1. Royalties don’t have to be paid for people’s likeness when it comes to original artwork. However, if a photo of the statue is taken, and multiple prints of that photo were sold, then royalties would have to be paid to whoever owns the rights to Robocop.

  2. What Detroit really needs right now is a fifty thousand dollar statue of Robocop. He can hold a sign that always shows the current unemployment rate in the city.

    Public art is nice, but Bob damn it, $50 grand for this? How about a stencil of Robocop spread free on the web, and encouraging people to spray it all over the city?

    1. If the money is spent in Detroit it will actually help boost the economy as the money will be donated from those who can afford to pay. Some families in the manufacturing industry could benefit from such economic stimulus.

  3. I love Robocop as much as the next kid who grew up in the 80s, but this is stupid. A $100 would do so much to help the city’s homeless. Even $35 is a lot of money that could do so much. We should help people who need it before we start sinking money which could be used elsewhere on idols. I think a lot of the draw is the novelty of having something like that. It is so cliche but detroit has enough metal relics of the past right now that could use preserving.

  4. As I recall, the Detroit of Robocop is not a place anyone would want to live, and I don’t know see why anyone would want to celebrate or commemorate that with a statue, except as a dig at Detroit’s current state. A Robocop statue would be a gravestone instead of a guidepost.

  5. Wow, haters got ta hate. I live in Michigan and I think this is fun idea. Detroit’s problems are not going to be solved by a statue of Robocop, but this poor city needs something fun and lighthearted.

  6. This is such a stupid idea. Every time I see it come up, I find myself getting more and more annoyed. This is not something that the city needs and it’s not something that would portray the city in a positive light.

  7. 50k wouldnt make a noticable dent in any of detroits problems. This statue idea is bringing attention to the city, possibly driving customers to a participating local business, and maybe even giving some detroit residents something insperational (yeah not everyone, but there’s no universal symbol either)

    1. We have something inspirational, its called the Spirit of Detroit and the Joe Louis Fist statue. We have enough statues, emblems and symbols for Detroit, we need people to get behind those symbols and build a greater Detroit.

      The last thing we need is a statue of a 80s movie character that doesn’t represent the the city as it exists today. We need people to invest in the city not in superficial decorations that have no meaning to the city’s residents.

      Rob, nice choice in photos; one potential blight standing next to a current blight.

  8. If they got the rights permission to do this then surely they would have access to some original full scale models? It would boost the probably stale Robocop merchandise sales.

    1. Yeah, the function of the state (read: town council) is, after all, to help the sales of old movie merchandise.

  9. I live in Ann Arbor, MI–about an hour away from Detroit. When I first found out about the statue, I thought it was a pretty cool idea in a “hey I’m a hipster and therefore like robots and the 80’s” way. But the more I let the idea marinate, the more I came to dislike the RoboCop statue proposal.

    RoboCop doesn’t really paint Detroit in a great light. The movie was filmed in Dallas. The project will largely be supported by people outside of the city. It seems like just one more thing for people to mock Detroit over. Much more eloquent reasoning can be found on Supergay Detroit:

    Overall, I don’t think a bunch of outsiders contributing to a kitschy statue from a movie that used Detroit to represent a hopeless city, is what the city needs.

  10. FWIW, I don’t live in Detroit, but have some cool, creative Detroiter friends who take great pride in their city and think this is an awesome idea.

    So: Opinions vary. If private funds are raised, the owners of the Robocop likeness agree, and a suitable spot can be found for the statue, why not let it go forward? Haters can just not look at it.

    1. This rationalizing reminds me of when Eastern Michigan University changed their mascot from Hurons (a Native American tribe) to Eagles in the 1990s. Although there were actual students at EMU who requested the change because they were sick of hearing “war whoops” at football games by a white guy dressed in Indian drag, a lot of reactionary alumni fought against the change. One of the things they did was to fly in a Native American man from another state, who was willing to testify that he felt it was an honor for Native Americans to be chosen as mascots for sports teams.

      Yeah, there are bound to be a few Detroiters who support this statue. But I’m pretty sure if you polled the citizens of Detroit, the majority of them could find something that they would consider more useful to spend $50 grand on.

      I’ve heard of desperate scavengers around the country stealing window air conditioners and ripping copper pipes and wiring out of abandoned houses to sell for scrap. What is this statue going to be made of? Maybe Detroiters will find a good use for it anyway.

      1. If they make it out of copper it won’t last the first night. I don’t know what the prices are per pound for other types of scrap metal, but either way the statue would be a prime target for cash strapped scrappers.

  11. The 10-year-old in me agrees that Robocop is awesome and all, but does Detroit really need a statue that deifies violence?

    What ever happened to honoring real people who actually do things for the city?

    1. BTW, robo cop pretty much only killed corporate thugs that were trying to ignore ethics to make money off people suffering.

  12. I assume this would be good promotion for an old movie. Why use an action figure when you could probably get the original suit for a day and maybe a little cash if you can roll the statue reveal into a Blue ray release or AMC marathon or something.

  13. We can take a relatively small figure of RoboCop (conceivably even an action figure), have it 3D scanned by lasers (cool!) and scale its form to create a light-weight model of any size we’d like, which can then be used to pour and cast liquid metal.

    Ugh. At best that will look like an upscaled action figure, complete with clunky articulated joints and plastic mold marks. That’s why you get professionals to do things like this.

  14. So, who’s taking odds on how quickly this statue will be torn down and melted for scrap by the citizens of Detroit?

    I smell opportunity – what’s iron’s per-pound scrap price?

  15. Being a Philadelphian, I can safely tell Detroit that having a iconic movie character immortalized in public sculpture form is a seriously mixed bag.

    These things start to define your city, and not always in a good way

    For years we’ve had a Rocky Balboa statue…In front of our art museum..Nothing says ‘world class art destination’ like Stallone….Classy!

    Plus, much like Rocky, every sequel to the original Robocop flat out sucked! FACT.

    Think about it: Do you really want a statue that is a constant reminder that the rest of the world sees Detroit as a crime ridden hellhole/ass end of the western world?

    Come on, Detroit..Accentuate the positive.

    Make it an MC5 monument, and I’m all in.

    1. “Think about it: Do you really want a statue that is a constant reminder that the rest of the world sees Detroit as a crime ridden hellhole/ass end of the western world?”

      You mean, save them the trouble of looking at the unemployment and crime statistics?

      Or maybe you could look at this as a chance for a city to have fun and be a little self mocking in the face of fiction becoming reality. A lot of what makes a place fun to live in is when people have a sense of humor. “Keep Austin Weird” and the like. I fear detroit has lost a bit of that.

      1. When Detroit has the thriving infrastructure of Austin, THEN it can have the luxury of worrying about “Keeping It Weird”..

        Which is Austin’s shorthand for ‘stop flocking to our city in droves! Our ‘funky’ side is being diminished…Boo-hoo!

        In other words: Austin has a ‘too much growth/losing our ‘edge’ problem…

        Polar opposite of Detroit.

        There already IS a FUN burgeoning art scene in Detroit, along with all of the attendant “weirdness” that is in no danger of being usurped by an influx of bland, moneyed gentrifying masses demanding Pottery Barns..At least for the foreseeable future.

        All I’m saying is that kind of money would make a much better donation to a worthy Detroit charity instead of a down payment on a ‘wacky’ statue.

        1. I realize the difference in their situations.But I think the need for humor and fun is the same regardless if the threat is different

          “Keep Detroits Apocolyptic Future, In the Future.” Might be the slogan they need here.

          Maybe we should check what the annual revenue is for the future birth place of James T Kirk, before we pass judgement on the future birthplace of RoboCop.

    2. good points. . .except, well, I like Rocky 3: Hulk Hogan AND Mr. T? How can that be bad???

      At any rate; I admire the history of The Motor City, and am facinated by the current time of decay and diminishment.

      I hope someday it can rebuild and regain and renew: I don’t know if this statue is the way to do it.

      A six-story statue of ED 209 on the other hand. . .

  16. Note to those of you who think this is “geektastic”, “hellacool” or “a fun idea”: Detroit needs this like Philadelphia needed a statue of Rocky at the top of the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a stupid idea, and there are plenty of us Michiganders who hope it goes nowhere. It’s just dogpiling onto the idea that Detroit is what RoboCop said it is: too far gone to save; a movie set for books like ‘Random Acts of Senseless Violence’ (a book I like, by the way); a ruin porn centerfold. Context is everything, people. Putting that statue there would be the ultimate act of frivolity and disrespect.

  17. Detroit’s future has a silver lining…

    The lining may be silver, but the armor is kevlar-laminated titanium.

  18. For those who keep saying “If only we could use the money from this Kickstarter project for the poor”: please initiate a Kickstarter project raising money to do something for the poor, or direct us to one that is. Seriously.

    1. I’m going to make a wild guess that people can make helpful donations to Detroiters through existing methods other than Kickstart, without creating some new charity.

      1. Yes, that’s very true, but it wasn’t until comment #42 that someone linked to any. In hindsight, I should’ve posted some after a bit of research, but I’m more worried about people and places worse off than Detroit.

        Why not adopt a Hero Rat that can find land mines. Maybe there are charities with more worthy causes, but that’s more a matter of opinion.

  19. Detroit can have the ‘luxury’ of privately funded public art now, or not, as Kickstarter will indicate, without permission or approval of folks who think we’re too hard up to require it. It’s unlikely that many of the 1100 backers haven’t contributed much more in money and time to charity, needs and development than the maybe $25 on average they have pledged to Robocop. If you doubt that, you need to know more about people who live and work here.
    If we could make a magic poll of Detroit residents, with 100% citizen participation, and clarity that the funds will not come from city government, we still might not see majority support because citizens generally hate new public art. It takes a decade, or two or five, to build the love, which is why you don’t see a lot of public art propsals up for vote. That’s true in most big cities. Believe me, people once HATED the Robert Graham Joe Louis Fist. There was a lot of dismay over how it portrayed the city in a bad light. They’d hate a Marvin Gaye or MC5 monument until they got used to it. But people here come around fast, because we’re media and pop art crazy and have a centuries old tradition of self-starting artists. Art is about need for thought, play, and fun, the process of ‘getting it’. It can be transformative for someone who walks by it on the way to school or sees it from a bus stop. When that art comes for free, why the critcism?

  20. I love how a poor and troubled city is not “allowed” to have anything fun, decorative, or controversial until it solves its social problems. As if other cities don’t have their own areas of blight, poverty, and crime. Detroit is a troubled city, some might say a failed city. But it is not a post-apocalyptic waste land. It is a place where regular people live and work and play, and many of them enjoy Robocop and would like to see a statue of Robocop. You could say that the $50k could be put to a better use, but you could always say that. Most people reading this are carrying around the equivalent of a heifer purchased for a third world family through Heifer International. Did any of you hesitate before you bought your smart phone because your $300 could be put to a “better” use? All economic decisions are a balance between need and want. As a person living in the Detroit area, I am heartily sick and tired of out-of-state or out-of-country kibbitzing about what’s wrong with Detroit and how it should be fixed. I would much rather see people who want to gift the city with Robocop send in their pledge and those that think “something better” should be done with the money are welcome to donate the same amount to any of hundreds of worthy charities that benefit the people of Detroit. I’ll bet not one person here who has commented on how much they hate the idea has actually done that.

    1. Detroit is ‘allowed’ to have whatever public art it wants, however ill-conceived it may be. Thats not the issue.

      But as a thirty year inhabitant of a city that already has more than its share of bad/embarrassing public art INCLUDING a Rocky Balboa statue. Consider yourself forewarned.. We’re already stuck with our dumb-ass movie statue ..and it sucks..

      You’ve gotta be careful of what you hitch your wagon to.. Pop culture reference stuff like this doesn’t usually age well…Take it from someone who has to hear “clever” tourists yell ‘Yo, Adrian!’ all the damn time.

  21. “Drop it creep!”

    The argument that 50k could be better spent on something else begs the question; how could you raise so much for that something else which doesn’t instantly resonate with the awesome? There are hundreds of great charities in Detroit that people are now starting to pay attention to. Isn’t that alone a huge success? The idea of a Robocop statue is already making a difference.

    So after sending a buck or two to build an awesome statue of Robocop, send a buck or two to another cause:

  22. Like others said, Robocop wasn’t even filmed in my city of Detroit. While a pretty cool movie, I continue to joke with my brother about how they called it “old Detroit” (as if that’s local slang).

    Therefore, to be honest, I’m rather indifferent to this whole statue project.

    That said, I do appreciate many of the comments here that defend our city, especially from many of the judgmental comments that say we’re not allowed to involve ourselves in a bit of levity or we’ve got too many problems (as if we’re in denial) to do anything fun.

    I’m betting many of the naysayers have never been to Detroit.

    I understand why our mayor said no (I would too, for the reasons I gave earlier), but if it happens, meh.

  23. Surely Detroit was chosen as the setting for Robocop because of it’s association with the manufacturing industry? The storyline hinges on the activities of the Omni Consumer Products organization, and the social problems of the city serve as a backdrop to the human struggles that ensue when the interests of the elite begin to take precedence over the greater good.
    Murphy (Robocop) is the individual whose human instinct and morality must overcome the programming issued to him by his “owners” (O.C.P.), while still doing his job and upholding the law. And you know what…? *spoiler alert* In the end, he gets the bad guy, exposes the bad guy’s boss- and the state of corruption that put each of them in their situation- and reclaims some semblance of his fading humanity, while still serving the public, and providing inspiration to the city’s beleaguered citizens.
    And people are Complaining about this statue? Sheesh, if Detroit doesn’t want it, Dublin’ll take it. : )

    1. “Sheesh, if Detroit doesn’t want it, Dublin’ll take it. : )”

      You’ve already got one of the coolest statues; Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.

      Don’t get greedy.

  24. Well, those who lives in Springwood should get a Freddy Kreuger statue I think…I would donate $1000 to that project :)

  25. The story of Robocop is a story of a person who regains his humanity after having become a machine.

    Given that Detroit spent the 20th Century as a machine, and is pushing forward into the 21st Century by regaining its humanity through a renaissance of urban agriculture and open fabrication networks, a Robocop statue sounds perfect.

  26. Wow, looks like it’s been fully funded with the final $25,000 coming from a guy who runs a company called… Omni Consumer Products.

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