According to CBS’ Chicago affiliate, George Lucas’ Museum Of Narrative Art is almost certainly not going to be built in the Windy City. The museum has been in the works for years, with Lucas choosing to build it in Chicago when San Francisco wouldn’t give him the location he wanted. However, while Chicago officials were more than happy to give Lucas the otherwise useless land he had his eye on, an organization called Friends Of The Parks rose up to defend the neglected parking lot that’s in the spot now and declared that building the museum there would defy a century-old rule that forbids any construction on Chicago’s lakefront.
Friends Of The Parks then launched metaphorical proton torpedoes into the Lucas Museum’s metaphorical exhaust port by filing a lawsuit and getting a judge to halt any construction on the site until the lawsuit was settled, prompting Lucas to begin considering whether or not he should just take the museum to a different city—depriving Chicago of a bunch of park land, a crazy tent-looking building, and whatever presumably educational stuff would be inside a Museum Of Narrative Art. Now, it seems like a decision has been made, with Mellody Hobson (a Chicago native and Lucas’ wife) releasing a statement that says, essentially, “screw you, Friends Of The Parks.”
It’s a little more involved than that, but the sentiment is absolutely clear. Hobson says that the museum would’ve been “the largest philanthropic gift to an American city in the 21st century,” and despite having the support of “every relevant city agency, community leader, and policy maker,” the project has been “co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group.” She also adds that the Friends’ decision to go to this much trouble to “preserve a parking lot” will “rob [Chicago] of more than $2 billion in economic benefits, thousands of jobs, and countless educational opportunities for children and adults alike.” Hobson then ends her statement by saying that they are now “seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago,” and that “if the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends Of The Parks and that is no victory for anyone.”
You can read Hobson’s full statement below.
My husband and I have worked in earnest for two years, side-by-side with every relevant city agency, community leader, and policy maker, to give what would be the largest philanthropic gift to an American city in the 21st century. From the beginning, this process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group. When the Friends of the Parks sued the city in order to preserve a parking lot, we were offered a different and feasible solution—the replacement of an underutilized and outdated convention space that would also add more than 12 acres of new parkland. Yet, even with this additional park space, an organization that claims to ‘preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of parks and open space’ now opposes this as well. While they claim to be a ‘strong steward of Chicago and a partner to its progress,’ their actions and decision rob our state of more than $2 billion in economic benefits, thousands of jobs and countless educational opportunities for children and adults alike.
As an African American who has spent my entire life in this city I love, it saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer. As Chair of the Board of After School Matters, which serves 15,000 public high school students in Chicago and has more demand than can ever be met, I have seen firsthand what art can do to spur imagination and creativity, heal the soul and advance society—something so needed right now. This is a city of big shoulders and a metropolis that is second to none. In refusing to accept the extraordinary public benefits of the museum, the Friends of the Parks has proven itself to be no friend of Chicago. We are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago. If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone.