Georgetown residents battle over Transformer statues

Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, from the blockbuster hit “Transformers,” are hard to miss, standing roughly 6 and 10 feet tall respectively outside the home of Dr. Newton Howard, a Georgetown University professor with a focus in artificial intelligence.

The Bumblebee statue outside Dr. Newton Howard’s Georgetown house. In back is Optimus Prime. (Courtesy Newton Howard)

“I noticed that every time visitors come over, they have children and they’re intrigued and excited, so I said, why don’t I put them out at my planter, outside my home,” Howard said.

For him, they represent more than the hit movie; it’s about machines and humans coexisting together.

“Anything that restores human dignity, the things that we lose through disease and time should be welcomed and embraced,” he added.

Some neighbors, and his Advisory Neighborhood Commission, feel otherwise, pointing out he needs approval from the Old Georgetown Board and the proper permits to display the statues. Howard has since applied for a public space permit, but he’s going even bigger: He’s now working with the Commission of Fine Arts to erect similar statues across the District.

He also has plans to add messages to his personal collection.

“When you look at Transformers, in the movies they hold weapons. These will be holding boards that say ‘Transform your community, Transform yourselves, Transform to happiness,” he said.

The greater message, he believes, is worth the trouble.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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