DOWNTOWN — The search for Chicago site to house a museum featuring filmmaker George Lucas' artwork and movie memorabilia got underway in earnest Wednesday, as fans and ubergeeks who adore the "Star Wars'' creator weighed in at a public hearing.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed a “site selection task force” earlier this month in a bid to land the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum to the home of Lucas' new wife, businesswoman Mellody Hobson. Although Chicago hasn't yet been chosen as the home for the museum, those gathered at the Cultural Center Wednesday came prepared with reasons why the city is the best choice.
“Mayor Emanuel tasked us with ensuring the public had a voice in our deliberations to determine the best possible site for the Lucas Museum,” said task force co-chair Kurt Summers. “The public hearing and online forum will help us to consider all options to ensure the site is accessible to all Chicago neighborhoods, allows for educational programming and enhances public space.”
The audience of nearly 100 included representatives from the city’s museum community as well as community organizers and admirers of the beloved "Star Wars" universe.
South Side resident Ernest Sanders, general manager of Gigabyte Squared, urged the task force to consider South Shore in plans for the museum’s permanent location.
The neighborhood is "a perfect entrée for the museum,” he said, noting that the museum could bring a much-needed boost to high-speed internet technology and education to the South Side. “For me this is a call to action to bring the museum to the South Shore community."
Other proposed locations included the southern end of Northerly Island, the former USX site on Lake Michigan, Block 37, the Millennium Reserve and Wolf Point, among others.
According to Ald. John Arena (45th), the city would be best served by making the Northwest Side home to the museum, specifically at the Jefferson Park Transit Center or a four-acre lot at the Six Corners.
“I've heard all the talk about downtown, and we love you guys, but you have plenty of museums," he said. "We’ve been pushing to bring culture out to the neighborhoods and this is a great opportunity."
Others emphasized the need to incorporate independent creators into the plans, and, in accordance with a video message from Lucas and other members of the future museum's administration, a focus on youth education.
The most pointed summary of the night's message might have come from a self-described "Chicago geek," who garnered agreement across the room that the city deserves to be home to the museum.
“Chicago is the geek capital of the world, were home to a vast collection of great thinkers and inventors,” said Matt Wolff, co-founder of Geek Bar Chicago. “We’re a city of geeks and I believe we deserve the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum.”
Residents unable to attend Wednesday's public hearing are urged to submit their ideas to the city's official museum website.