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Star Wars creator George Lucas imagines San Francisco museum

Filmmaker and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd. George Lucas waits to do a television interview at the Milken Institute Global Confere
Filmmaker and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd. George Lucas waits to do a television interview at the Milken Institute Global Confere

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Filmmaker George Lucas, the creator of "Star Wars," has submitted a bid to build a "storytelling museum" in San Francisco to share his vast collection of contemporary paintings, illustrations and digital art.

Lucas has offered to construct the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum on federal land, run it and stock it with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art by the likes of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish.

"What he finds most fascinating in these artists is their ability to capture an emotion and tell an entire story in one image," Lucas spokesman David Perry told Reuters.

Lucas' proposal was one of 16 bids to create a cultural institution in a former commissary at the San Francisco Presidio, a 1,500-acre national park within the city created after the U.S. Army left the post in 1994.

Other proposals received last week by the Presidio Trust include a New Deal museum, a color museum, a global observatory, a center for the study of cities, an environmental center, a sustainability institute, an innovation center and a center for the history of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"We all know that George Lucas is a creative genius, and we're very pleased that he's one of the contenders," said Craig Middleton, executive director of the Presidio Trust.

He said the trust would examine the proposals and solicit public comment until April, when it would whittle down the competition and hold public hearings on the top bidders.

Lucas, 68, built the Letterman Digital Arts Center as the Presidio's first permanent business. The arts center is the combined home of Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts and Lucasfilm's marketing, online, and licensing units.

Lucas sold Lucasfilm Ltd., his film-making venture founded in 1971, to The Walt Disney Co. for $4.05 billion in 2012.

Perry estimated the value of the proposed gift at $1 billion, including the artwork and more than $300 million to construct the museum at the Presidio.

STORYTELLING

The semi-retired Lucas described his proposed museum as "a dedication to cultural fantasy" in an interview with CBS This Morning.

"Part of the museum is designed to educate younger people into the idea of storytelling, into the idea of being able to paint your fantasies, which is what ‘Star Wars' was," he said.

"‘Star Wars' was there to inspire young people to imagine things, to imagine going anywhere in the universe and doing anything you want to do and using your imagination to entertain yourself."

The museum would include five galleries, ranging in size from 4,500 to 8,500 square feet, a 200-seat theater and a 75-seat lecture hall. It would feature breathtaking views of the Bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Lucas bought his first work of art, a page from one of Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge comic books, for $25 when he was a University of Southern California film student. Since then, he has amassed a collection of 150 years of what he calls "fantastical" art.

In a letter accompanying his proposal, Lucas described a childhood trip from his home in Modesto to the de Young Museum in San Francisco as life changing.

"I was drawn in by Norman Rockwell's ability to tell a complete story in a single image," he wrote. "It was then that I began to learn the art of visual storytelling."

Perry said Lucas has spent the last two years working on the museum proposal. "This is a gift," Perry said. "We're just hoping the people to whom we offer the gift say, ‘thank you' and unwrap it."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Todd Eastham)

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