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Mike Wiza, mayor of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, wants to score an 11-foot-tall replica of the cyborg police officer from the 1980s action film. But if that effort fails, the city might see about making its own—possibly bigger—version.
Last Friday, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Mayor Mike Wiza settled in for movie night at home. The flick? RoboCop.
“Thank you, Amazon Prime, for allowing me to scratch my itch,” he wrote on Facebook, followed by the hashtag #bringrobohome.
Wiza’s a fan of the 1987 sci-fi movie, which tells the story of a police officer in post-apocalyptic Detroit who’s killed in the line of duty and brought back to life as a crime-fighting cyborg. But this latest screening felt more personal; coming, as it did, after four days of frenzied attempts to bring an 11-foot statue of the cyborg to Stevens Point.
The bronze statue, created by a Detroit-based sculptor, was a crowd-funded project slated to be installed at the Michigan Science Center. But the center backed out last month, saying in a statement that “unprecedented pressures” from the coronavirus pandemic had forced the organization to refocus its resources “on our core mission of serving Michigan's students and families.”
When Wiza heard the news, the idea came to him instantly. Peter Weller, the actor who portrayed RoboCop, was born and raised in Stevens Point. What better place for a RoboCop statue?
“When the science center said they didn’t want it, I said, ‘That’s unfortunate, but heck, we’re interested,’” Wiza said. “Being Peter Weller’s hometown, I thought it was pretty appropriate.”
Wiza began reaching out to anyone he thought could help, including Brandon Walley, a Detroit-based filmmaker who helped launch the crowdfunding campaign for the project. In an email, Walley told the mayor he appreciated the offer of a permanent home for the monument, but “our mandate has always been to have our little RoboStatue made and preside in Detroit proper.”
“We’re close to having a great location secured for that to happen,” he continued. “Thanks for the interest and glad that this project has generated excitement in your community. Mr. Weller is an awesome individual, Stevens Point raised (him) right!”
‘Close’ to a deal is not a deal, Wiza reasoned, and asked Walley to keep him in mind if plans fell through. Shortly after, a local arts advocacy group reached out to the mayor with a suggestion—if the city couldn’t procure the existing statue, why not make a new one?
“There are several routes we could take,” said Greg Wright, executive director of CREATE Portage County, which spearheads community development through artistic and creative projects. “We could use 3D printing to manufacture it in pieces, or make it out of plastic bags—you warm them up in an oven, and they turn into a dough that you can mold, which solidifies to something that almost looks like marble.”
Those plans are in the early stages, Wright said, and depend on the fate of the existing statue as well as the support the organization can get from the community for a new one. (If a large number of 3D printing enthusiasts offer to help, for example, CREATE would likely opt to make the statue that way.)
“That’s the fun of projects for us, is throwing out an idea and seeing who in the community responds, and making use of the skillsets that come forward—and not necessarily knowing how things are going to go,” Wright said.
If the city goes that route, Wiza has some ideas. The statue could be placed in a public square, or maybe in front of city hall; it might fit in well at the sculpture park, or possibly in its own dedicated space (potentially one named “RoboPark,” he said).
And it’s got to be big, Wiza added.
“If this 11-foot statue in Detroit falls through, and they decide to keep it in Detroit, I think we should make ours 12 feet tall,” he said. “Some cities have tanks or cannons in their town square. We’d like to have RoboCop.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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