George Lucas may have passed his Star Wars duties on to Disney, but he's got more ambitious plans in the works. No, not another film— something completely different: The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
For the past four years, Lucas has been desperately trying to get his vision off the ground. He's donated his entire private art collection (worth a whopping $1 billion), has committed to fully funding the entire project (estimated to cost around $1.5 billion), and has refused to take a single cent from the non-profit museum's revenue. The museum is expected to create more than 1,500 jobs during its construction, and over 350 full time staff positions. As the museum's president Don Bacigalupi states on the museum's official website, the entire project is "an epic act of generosity and altruism".
But in spite of all his good efforts, Lucas still can't catch a break. Four years, three building designs and six proposed sites later, and construction hasn't even started. So what's the hold up?
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"We Will Change The Way You Think About Museums"
A big part of the reason for the museum's slow development is its core concept. The museum's website boasts a "barrier free museum" that "will celebrate the power of visual storytelling in a setting focused on narrative painting, illustration, photography, film, animation and digital art".
As well as housing Lucas' own collection, the museum will feature an array of art from a variety of artists. From Lucas' own early Star Wars concept drawings to more contemporary zines, it's far from a fine art museum. In fact, those who aren't so keen on traditional fine art museums will find themselves open to "engage with and relate to art forms they recognize and love".
It will boast daily film screenings, a 4,200 square foot library, a fine dining restaurant and an array of educational facilities, including production-quality editing suites— and all this at zero cost to tax payers. It's essentially a gift. But while all this may sound like a dream come true to your average Lucas fanboy, it's not a concept that everyone can get behind.
Attack Of The Opposition
In the past four years, Lucas has considered six different sites. The museum was originally intended to be built in Crissy Field, San Francisco, but negotiations over the build site in the national park stalled.
After considering bids from both Youngstown, Ohio and and Los Angeles, Lucas set his sights on Chicago, where he was invited to lease a parking lot on the shores of Lake Michigan for just $1 per year.
Unfortunately, his previous back-and-forth negotiations with San Francisco would pale in comparison to what he was about to encounter in Chicago. After submitting his proposed design for the museum, he was massively criticized by local media, as well as conservation group Friends of the Parks.
Friends of the Parks insisted that the museum would only serve private and commercial interests, as opposed to the public. They petitioned against the development of the lakefront, even after the museum's plans were significantly downsized.
Lucas also faced some harsh words from local media; The Chicago Tribune accused the museum of being a monument to Lucas himself rather than art, and Crain's Chicago Business said the museum's would be "defacing the city's lakefront as much as any teenager with a can of spray paint". It's the kind of anti-Lucas sentiment that's reminiscent of the 2010 documentary The People vs George Lucas:
Finally tensions became too much for Lucas to handle, and in May 2016 his wife Melody Hobson announced that they were considering other locations due to the long-running opposition from Friends of the Parks. Sorry, nerds of Chicago.
A New Hope
After the ordeal in Chicago, Lucas has taken a different approach to deciding the museum's new home. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco are again vying to house the museum in their cities as of June 2016, and Lucas is now pitting them against each other.
LA are currently trying to win Lucas over with a spot in Exposition Park, but they've got some tough competition from San Francisco. Their neighbors to the North are offering a spot on the manmade Treasure Island, an old Navy base. Considering the unique allure of an island location, as well as the fact that the San Francisco Bay area is where the Lucas family currently resides, San Francisco seems like it has a good chance to secure the deal.
Lucas will be deciding on the lucky winner this month, but that doesn't mean it'll be all smooth sailing from there. Will construction on the museum finally commence, or will Lucas find himself locked in another vicious battle with anti-development groups?
What do you think of George Lucas' plans for The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art?