I am beginning to like the RoboCop statue
I will admit it. I hated the idea of a RoboCop statue at first, especially the early buzz about the project because people wanted to put it on city property and have the city of Detroit pay for the statue. Now that the people from the Imagination Station have stepped up to raise money for it and plan to put it on their property, two of my key objections have been overcome.
First, Detroit is no stranger to controversial public art. The Joe Louis Fist at the base of Woodward is one example. Belle Isle is home to the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain. Mr. Scott was a scandalous businessman who left his estate to the City of Detroit with instructions to create a monument in his honor. It took the city 15 years to complete the fountain, a delay due in part to the rancorous debate surrounding the appropriateness of the gift.
Even the Heidelburg Project got the city’s blood boiling, with then-Mayor Dennis Archer’s administration destroying part of Tyree Guyton’s work. The work changed conversations in the city about what constitutes art: when is art a public nuisanse and how art can change the outlook of one of the economically poorest zip codes in the country.
The RoboCop statue stands to have a similar impact socially. This is not to say that the RoboCop statue is on the same plane artistically. In my opinion, it will be a decent addition to a city full of impressive statues but it will not be something that cause generations of people to flock to Detroit, no matter how big their love of cheesy 80’s movies.
What the statue will do is force us to talk about some big questions that always lie beneath our political divides. Questions are starting to come to the forefront. What qualifies someone as a Detroiter? What is the role suburban residents have in revitalizing Detroit? It doesn’t just act as a backdrop to the typical animosity between city and suburban residents. There are debates about the appropriateness of $50,000 going toward a statue when there are community-benefit organizations that could also use the funding, but this is beginning to spur people into action.
Since Mike is an artist, we talked about different examples of public art in Detroit and the pieces we like or dislike. It was then he told me that he stands for art, and that he doesn’t have to like any of it. But the fact is that public art is critical to our city reclaiming our creativity.
That point opened my mind. It’s okay to dislike the art side of the project while loving the debate this statue is creating. I find myself liking the idea more everyday because it is encouraging people from around the country to invest in Detroit. It has changed the way people here are thinking about raising money. It is forcing some people off their duff and into action. It is forcing Detroiters, all Detroiters, to really examine who we are and what we stand for.
Which leads me to my last question: when is the groundbreaking on this thing?