Is the Lucas Museum a menace or ‘New Hope’ for Chicago?

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A rendering by MAD Architects of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a museum currently planned to be opened in Chicago by 2019-2020. The museum and the site is currently being debated between Chicagoans, with Friends of the Park arguing that the state of Illinois has jurisdiction over the land. (Photo courtesy of MAD Architects)

A rendering by MAD Architects of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a museum currently planned to be opened in Chicago by 2019-2020. The museum and the site is currently being debated between Chicagoans, with Friends of the Park arguing that the state of Illinois has jurisdiction over the land. (Photo courtesy of MAD Architects)

The silver peaks rise over 100 feet in the air and curve like metallic dunes. Inside, art by the likes of Norman Rockwell hang, models of full-size speeders rest in the hanger and hundreds of other forms of narrative art await the curious onlooker — well, at least that was the plan for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Now George Lucas’ proposal to build a $400 million museum on 17 acres of public land is being sued by the preservation group Friends of the Parks. They argue that the city of Chicago cannot grant land that the state of Illinois has jurisdiction over, and that the museum is too obtrusive to the lakefront’s atmosphere.

For his dream to come to reality, Lucas only has three choices at this point.

He can wait until April 21 when both sides make their case for U.S. District Court Judge John Darrah, who will decide whether to lift an order that halts construction from starting.

He can compromise and build his museum on the lands Friends of the Park recommends, such as the Michael Reese hospital site or the west side of Lake Shore Drive, above the rail yards.

Or, Lucas can pack his bags and hop on over to any number of other cities, as some are speculating he will do. It wouldn’t be the first time; Lucas did the same thing in San Francisco when officials wanted him to tone down the museum’s futuristic style.

Fortunately for Lucas, one of the museum’s biggest advocates is Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He has whipped the proposal for the museum through the city’s various boards and has spoken publically about the matter.

“This is a family that’s willing to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to fulfill our vision as a city,” Emanuel said this week. “I just hope that, as the other cities compete, that we do not lose a tremendous charitable donation.”

Indeed, Lucas has promised to pay for the entire museum and provide art for its display from his private collection, estimated to be worth over $600 million.

But the museum also has a larger message.

“The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be a gathering place to experience narrative art and the evolution of moving images — from illustration to cinema to the digital media of the future,” according to the museum’s website.

Narrative art is described as a genre that “uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations.”

The collections, including cinema, digital and narrative art, would showcase the change of storytelling over the years until the present day. And yes, that means “Star Wars,” too.

How much money it would take for visitors to see such collections remains unclear.

DePaul students had a thing or two to say about the museum.

“Isn’t there somewhere else they can put it, besides Lakefront property?” said Vincent Matzger, a senior studying biology. “I think there is tons of space and tons of locations in the city and, I think if anything, you could put it in a neighborhood that’s just not so great but needs that extra push.”

Matt Brdlik, a freshman studying digital cinema production, seemed enthusiastic about the Lucas Museum.

“Going down and seeing what all the hype is about would be definitely something I’d be interested in doing,” Brdlik said. “Especially being a cinema major, because there’s not a ton of recognition in the way of museums, as far as film. I haven’t heard of any museum in Chicago that is about film.”

Kiara Simon, a senior studying economics, already frequents Museum Campus, especially for the Art Institute, and had no problem adding the Lucas Museum to the list.

“I don’t see a problem with it, personally, because what is the land being used for?” Kiara said. “If you are using it for something good, that’s going to educate people, and it’s going to expand peoples’ horizons, why not?”