George Lucas’ Museum of Narrative Art is no longer just a concept in a galaxy far, far away.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the non-profit museum took place on Wednesday at its future location in parking lot three of Los Angeles’ Exposition Park, launching a 36-month construction plan that will culminate in a five-story building. In addition to its narrative art collections spanning several media from paintings to film, the museum will house dining, theaters, lecture halls, classrooms, and a public research library.
“In my feeling, popular art is an insight into a society and what they aspire to — what they really are,” Lucas explained at the ceremony. “It’s telling the narrative of their story, their history.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also spoke at the ceremony, told Variety that Lucas’ and his wife and co-founder Mellody Hobson’s primary goal for the museum is to inspire a future generation of creatives.
“Their dream is to ignite the imagination of young people,” Garcetti said. “This isn’t something like most museums where they’re adding the students later; I think that’s where this starts for them.”
The mayor referred to himself as a “huge fanboy” of the “Star Wars” films, noting that “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” was the first movie he saw in theaters as a child. He hopes the same sort of values that the “Star Wars” stories instilled in him will be passed onto children who visit the museum.
“In the simplest terms, ‘Star Wars’ showed me that good can overcome evil, and it’s in my guiding principle of why I do what I do,” he said.
Hobson and Lucas both stressed the importance of popular art in shaping a community during the ceremony, and Hobson expressed her eagerness to share Lucas’ capacity for innovation with the public.
“I always feel like the world has only seen a glimpse of George’s creativity through his movies,” Hobson said.
“We have to share a history, we have to share heroes,” Lucas said.
The museum will include a mixture of traditionally high art from artists like Norman Rockwell, as well as popular art from both classic and up-and-coming filmmakers. Its nondiscriminatory approach to art curation is something that Lucas Museum founding president Don Bacigalupi believes will set it apart from others in the area.
“We’re not so interested in the categorization; we’re interested in the underpinning of story,” Bacigalupi said.
Chinese architect Ma Yansong of MAD Architects designed the museum, which will transform the parking lot space into a cultural destination surrounded by 11 acres of new gardens and park space. Garcetti estimated that its construction and opening will create thousands of jobs.
Steven Spielberg has also been added as the latest member of the museum’s board, Bacigalupi announced at the ceremony. The famed director grabbed a shovel during part of the official groundbreaking to join in the celebration.
As Variety reported, Lucas has donated several items from his personal art collection, which includes about 10,000 paintings, illustrations and film memorabilia. Luke Skywalker’s first light saber, Darth Vader’s helmet, and pieces from “Casablanca,” “The Ten Commandments,” and “The Wizard of Oz” are set for display at the museum.
“I’m very sold on the visual,” Lucas said. “I’m image conscious, and I’m trying to promote the image as a way of telling stories.”
Lucas had announced last year that his museum would be built in Los Angeles after his proposals for Chicago and his hometown, San Francisco, had stalled out. “I wanted a special museum that was a work of art in itself, and Ma has done that three times,” Lucas added of the museum plans made at the three different cities.
Other speakers at the ceremony included Los Angeles County supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and city council member Curren Price. All who spoke touched on the museum’s dedication to fostering a welcoming environment accessible to everyone, regardless of distinctions like gender, race, or economic background.
“Perhaps in a workshop here, we’ll discover the next playwright, producer, or — who knows — maybe the next George Lucas,” Price said at the ceremony.