Detroit’s other micro-funded public art project

In 1901, 60-year-old Hazen Pingree — Detroit mayor, Michigan governor, potato-patcher, Idol of the People —  died in London on his return trip from an African safari. As soon as the report hit the streets in Detroit (“within minutes,” reports Dan at, readers started calling the paper offering donations for a monument.

The iconic seated Ping that has presided over Grand Circus Park since 1904 was funded by over 5,000 people. The average donation to the project: between 25 cents and a dollar.

I know I said I didn’t really want to talk about Robocop (also, are we still talking about Robocop?), but the project’s much-ballyhoo’d Kickstarter campaign has made me that much more awed by and appreciative of how much people adored Hazen Pingree.

It also occurred to me that we’d be remiss if we neglected to mention, in our heated public debates about the Robocop statue, the heated public debate that raged for five years over the Scott Fountain on Belle Isle (and accompanying life-size statue of Jim Scott). When I’m really feeling bummed about Robocop, it’s nice to remember how many people really loathed Jim Scott (and if indeed he was a scumbag, he was a REAL LIFE scumbag, and not just an imaginary robot). And that turned out a-okay. Except the fountain keeps getting scrapped. But other than that. It’s a joy to behold. Perhaps Robocop will be as well.

#detroit robocop#hazen pingree#james scott#james scott fountain


  1. Anonymous - February 15, 2011 @ 10:18 am

    In consideration of the line you trace, it seems important to mention the placement of the Jim Scott statue compromised Scott’s original request to face the city from Belle Isle. The Fountain obstructs the demands of Scott’s donation of private money and the power of an individual or small interest.

  2. Jerry Paffendorf - February 15, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    This is so cool! I had no idea Pingree was funded from the bottom up like that. I gotta share this because it’s doubly coincidental: About a year ago I wove a cyborg Mayor Pingree-bot into a storyline for another micro fundraising project:

    . It’s a tiny little convergent world we live in.

  3. Dean - February 15, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    Well stated. It’s nice to see a positively crowd-sourced tribute to Pingree, knowing that the current conversation is far more controversial. Hopefully time will be the solution to the current debate.

    Glad I found your blog!

  4. amy - February 17, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

    @Jerry – holy cow! crazy weird wonderful video!

    @Anon – I didn’t realize that the vista was part of Scott’s request. I love some of the early outlandish suggestions for satisfying his onerous condition — that his statue be carved from soap, for example, and placed in the middle of the fountain, where it would wash away.

    @Dean – thanks for reading and we’re glad you stopped by!

    and to ALL of you – I apologize for my delay in moderating comments – something was broken in my admin dashboard. fixed! onward!

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