Meet The Man Who’s Taking Over Detroit With His Giant “Robocop” Statue

Brandon Walley is here to serve and protect.

Brandon Walley is here to serve and protect.

You may remember back in 2011, a Kickstarter campaign was launched with the aim of providing Detroit, MI, with a giant statue of Robocop. Two years on, the project is heading towards completion, with these photos of the statue-in-progress appearing on the campaign’s 18th update yesterday. With Detroit currently in financial chaos, the project has inevitably raised more than a few eyebrows, so we spoke to the man behind the campaign – Detroit native Brandon Walley – to see how the project came about, what it means for the city, and whether there’s any hope for a matching ED-209 statue in the future…

How far are you guys from completion now?

It’s coming along nicely! This is the model that’s made out of foam, glass, and plaster, with a steel armature. That’ll be the positive image that we use to create the 10-foot tall bronze statue here in Detroit.

How long has this project taken so far, from inception?

It was the beginning of February 2011 when we first put up the Kickstarter. It’ll probably be another year before it’s completely done and installed – we’re shooting for early summer 2014 for the unveiling.

Did you think it would take this long?

Oh, God no! We went in very naïve. Every Memorial Day weekend there’s an electronic music festival in Detroit, and two years ago, we thought we could unveil it for that, haha!

What has the reaction been from the city of Detroit?

It’s been a mixed bag – there was a passionate response from every part of the spectrum. Initially it was a full-time job just talking to the community. Imagination Station – our non-profit group that’s behind this – feel that Robocop’s a fun, pop-culture icon, but there were concerns that, you know, he’d be holding out a gun, or concerns about where the statue would eventually be, but having that conversation with the community ended up being a positive thing. There are still people that think it’s silly, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but what we did successfully was use it as a catalyst for other positive things – more community-minded projects like gardens, and raising money for local organizations. We’re really involved at a grass-roots level here in the city.

You guys got a lot of negative responses, largely due to the economic situation in Detroit right now. Do you think those people will change their minds when they see the finished product?

I hope so! There will always be people who thought it was a waste of money, but if you put it in perspective, this was money that didn’t exist before – the city didn’t pay for it, it was all from donations by over 2,000 backers around the world. There will be a positive impact – a lot of the backers are dying to come to Detroit to see it. And as I said, we’ve raised money for other projects because of this one. We raised over $28,000 for our Forgotten Harvest charity – which provides food for people in need – just as a result of the interest from our Robocop campaign. 

Do you know where the statue will eventually end up?

We have offers – with it still being about a year out, we’re waiting to pick. We definitely have criteria: It has to be in a space where the public can come and view it, but there are concerns with safety and insurance and things like that. But it’ll be in a very visible area of the city.

And he won’t be armed?

He won’t be armed, no. The pose you see now is pretty much how he’s going to stand – his iconic pose. He’s pretty passive, it almost looks like he wants to give a handshake.

If it ultimately proves popular, do you think you’d go through all this again to get a matching ED-209 statue?

It’s possible! There’s no real strong urge to jump back into the statue-making game, but who knows? We’ll see.

Do you have any strong feelings about the upcoming Robocop reboot?

I don’t know a ton about it, but I heard our project helped spark it getting a green light. Honestly, I had to re-watch the original movie when we started this project. I’d seen it as a little kid, but one of the guys on our team was a huge fan, and he talked me through it.

If you weren’t a huge Robocop fan, why on earth did you feel the urge to spend three years of your life getting this statue built?

At that point, we had done other crowd-funding projects with Imagination Station, doing public artwork, but I saw it as a possibility to do something fun. Ultimately, I think it’s a positive image for the city – he’s there to protect and serve, you know?

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