George Lucas' Museum to Break Ground in Exposition Park

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Exposition Park will begin to take shape today as Los Angeles officials and filmmaker George Lucas will be on hand to break ground on the $1 billion museum.

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.

The museum plans to feature 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.

``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 told the Los Angeles City Council before it approved the museum's construction in June.

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.

The building is designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, and besides the artwork will feature new digital technologies, daily film screenings and educational opportunities with hands-on and digital classrooms and a public research library for students.

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, 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.

``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 in June. ``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.''

The museum is scheduled to open in 2021.

Photo: Getty Images

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