CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 100 people offered suggestions, locations and support for moviemaker George Lucas’ proposal to bring a cultural arts museum to Chicago that would celebrate visual storytelling, computer effects and enhancement and the Star Wars films.
Chicago is on the short list of sites Lucas is considering, now that San Francisco has rejected his four-year effort to build the museum on waterfront parkland overlooking the Presidio.
San Francisco city officials have promised to find alternative sites, but Lucas immediately began to look elsewhere. Lucas’ wife, Mellody Hobson, is a native Chicagoan.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week announced creation of the task force to try to entice Lucas to build the museum here.
While no one brandished a light sabre or wore Imperial Stormtrooper gear, there were plenty of hard-core Star Wars aficionados among those who attended the hearing, in the Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall, 78 E. Washington St.
Self-proclaimed entertainment geek Michael Howe said a Lucas Museum would make Chicago a destination for fans of the visual arts.
“Every year I go to the West Coast at least twice. I see things there that I think, why can’t I see that in Chicago? That’s always the one thing that gets me down and why it’s difficult for me to recommend Chicago to many people because I love entertainment,” he said. “But all the stuff I love about entertainment seems to be out west.”
Lucas said in an introductory video clip that he wants his museum to be “iconic,” and another self-proclaimed geek, Matt Wolff, said that for him and those like him, it would be.
“We deserve the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum,” he said. “Geek culture permeates the very fabric of this city, and the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum would be the crowning jewel for us.”
Lucas tried for four years to build his museum on the waterfront, overlooking the Presidio, in San Francisco. Seven weeks ago San Francisco rejected Lucas’ preferred site but is offering alternatives.
Those at the hearing suggested locations in and around the Museum Campus, Grant Park above the Metra Electric tracks, Northerly Island, the Old Post Office, Block 37, the vacant lakefront U.S. Steel South Works property and the north side location that was once the pioneering Essanay Studios, at 1333 W. Argyle Av., which began making silent motion pictures more than a century ago.
Lucas has said the museum will focus on storytelling from the 19th century forward, with special emphasis on the development of computer-generated graphics.
Backers of the Museum Campus sites say it would be a natural complement to the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum of Natural History. One man said it would be far cheaper, and more fun, to ride the ‘L’ to the Lucas museum and other museum campus attractions, instead of buying a plane ticket.
The Grant Park site was touted by Levar Hoard of Interactive Design Architects, who said it would attract families as well as art students from nearby colleges and universities, and would not destroy existing park land. He would build it by covering over the Metra Electric tracks, the same method employed to create the space for Millennium Park.
Uptown resident Alyssa Berman-Cutler told CBS 2’s Mike Parker she thinks the museum should be located in the Uptown Theater.
“It’s an amazing jewel of the neighborhood and the city and it really ties together the future of film as Mr. Lucas has presented it, to the history of film,” said Berman-Cutler.
Those who favor Northerly Island said it would draw visitors as much because of its view of downtown Chicago as it would the museum itself.
The vacant U.S. Steel South Works property also was touted because of its view of downtown and the lakefront, but also because it would bring jobs to an area that needs them.
The Old Post Office was mentioned because of its proximity to public transportation and highways. It is built over access tracks to Chicago Union Station, and one speaker, Allan Mellis, said he would couple development of the museum to putting a high-speed rail terminal in the Post Office basement.
The rumor that the site selection meeting would be invaded by superfans who masquerade as Star Wars characters proved to be false as they did not show up.