Transformer Statues Spark Battle Among Georgetown Residents

The massive statues are deemed unfit to remain, but the owner says they have a deeper, hidden meaning

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A Georgetown man put a pair of 2-ton sculptures of characters from the 2010 movie “Transformers” outside his home, causing a rift among other Georgetown residents.

Newtown Howard, a professor at Georgetown University and the owner of the statues, doesn’t think he needs a permit, but the Old Georgetown Board, which is in charge of making sure the neighborhood stays true to its historic roots, insists that it’s public space and he does need one.

“That’s the enjoyable thing: to see people having fun. It’s refreshing,” Howard said in response to families taking pictures with the statues.

The sculptures of the characters Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee have been outside Howard’s home on Prospect Street since January. The massive statues are made of motorcycle parts.

“I think they should be embraced,” Howard said.

Some board members disagree.

The statues went up without the public space permits, and the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions objected.

The matter then landed before the Old Georgetown Board, which advises the Federal Commission on Fine Arts. Last week, the board deemed the statues inappropriate for their location and denied Howard a permit for them. The statues would have to come down.

But Howard hasn’t given up. He said there’s a deeper message behind the statues.

“Human beings coalesce,” he said. “They’re independent entities, but they need one another.”

Howard works with and studies prosthetics and the human brain. He said it “gives people second hope.”

Despite the board’s rejection, Howard said all is not lost: There could be a compromise in the works where the sculptures are only displayed for a few months at a time.

“And the fine arts commission is also looking into having them around town, so I commission a build of another 16 of them,” Howard said.

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