LOS ANGELES — The City Council unanimously approved plans June 27 for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Exposition Park, with “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas making a personal appearance at City Hall to regale the council with his vision for the much-anticipated arts showcase.
“The popular arts, the popular narrative arts which tell the story of society, have kind of been dismissed, so that’s one of the things that spurred me on to say this kind of art is very important, and it is especially important to adolescents,” Lucas said.
The museum will house works by painters such as Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; illustrations, comic art and photography by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth; as well as storyboards, props and other items from popular films. It will be a “barrier-free museum” where “artificial divisions between ‘high’ art and ‘popular’ art are absent,” according to the museum’s website.
Lucas, creator of the “Star Wars” film franchise, producer of the “Indiana Jones” franchise and founder of visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic, chose Los Angeles as the home of the $1 billion museum in January, after facing legal challenges in Chicago and also considering San Francisco.
“‘Star Wars’ was done on a lark to say I want to take adolescents, 12-year-olds, and let them think outside the box and say, forget everything they’ve told you. Don’t trust anyone over 30. Matter of fact, don’t trust anybody over 15,” Lucas said.
The approved plan calls for a five-story building with 300,000 square feet of floor area for a cafe and restaurant, theaters, office space, lecture halls, a library, classrooms, exhibition space and landscaped open space.
Lucas will be donating all of the art and paying for the museum’s construction in what has been billed the largest philanthropic gift to an American city in the 21st century.
“As they say, three is a charm. This has been a very long and hard journey. My joke is, who knew it would be so hard to give away a museum,” Lucas’ wife, Mellody Hobson, said. “But it really has been something that has challenged us, and it’s a bit emotional for us to be standing here and seeing this dream become a reality.”
After Lucas ran into opposition in Chicago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reached out and tried to woo him to Los Angeles. Lucas considered both the L.A. proposal, which in Exposition Park will be near his alma matter of USC, and San Francisco, where he has strong connections after growing up in Modesto and living in the Bay Area for decades.
Lucas also ran into opposition in San Francisco in 2014 with a plan to build the museum at the Presidio before the 2016 San Francisco plan proposed Treasure Island.
“A long time ago in a city not so far away, two people had a dream for a museum, and we said from the beginning that the force was very strong here in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said at a news conference with Lucas and Hobson after the vote. “We said we were a place that would get the job done and would open up our hearts and our minds.”
The museum is scheduled to open in 2021.