A fight to find the site for a museum containing the film-maker George Lucas’s personal collection of Star Wars memorabilia could turn intergalactic. Three US cities are now vying for the privilege of housing the planned Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, after the Star Wars creator’s preferred San Francisco location declined his proposal.
The museum would be devoted to populist American art and storytelling from the past 150 years, and based on Lucas’s collection of art and artefacts, which includes original works by the painters Norman Rockwell, NC Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish, as well as the original costumes for Darth Vader, Chewbacca et al. Lucas plans to spend $300m (£176m) building the museum, and to leave a further $400m endowment after his death. The problem, however, is where to put it.
Federal officials have denied Lucas his original wish to build in the Presidio park, close to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. He grew up in nearby Modesto and still lives at his Skywalker Ranch in neighbouring Marin County. On his museum website, he outlined why he believes San Francisco would make an ideal location.
“The Bay Area has always been home to forward-thinkers and artistic innovators – people who push to do things that haven’t been done before,” Lucas wrote. “Men like Eadweard Muybridge, Philo Farnsworth and Steve Jobs. Companies like Pixar, Adobe, Facebook. There’s a history of invention here that’s as exciting as it is infectious.”
As San Francisco city officials scramble to find an alternative site, Chicago has swept into the battle. Its mayor, Rahm Emanuel – formerly chief of staff to Barack Obama – is lobbying Lucas to bring his institution to the Windy City.
Lucas’s wife, Mellody Hobson, is from Chicago, which the film-maker has described as his second home. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has also staked its claim to the museum. Eric Garcetti, the mayor, recently wrote to Lucas personally, offering him the site of the LA Memorial Sports Arena, close to the University of Southern California, where the director studied film in the 1960s.
A final decision is expected to be made this summer.