A group calling itself “Friends of the Lucas Museum” has formed to “outline the potential benefits Chicagoans can expect from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art coming to Chicago” ahead of upcoming public hearings on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial decision to give Star Wars film maker George Lucas lakefront land to build a structure to house his collection of movie memorabilia and artwork.
With open-space advocates Friends of the Parks threatening a lawsuit to stop the museum from being built south of Soldier Field, Friends of the Lucas Museum says it will work to point out “the tremendous impact” the museum will have on the city’s “arts and cultural scene, surrounding educational institutions and the region’s tourism and economic climate.”
The new volunteer group will be headed by Kurt Summers, the former chief of staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Summers, who served on the task force created by Emanuel that recommended the city offer Lucas the lakefront parcel, is a vice president for Grosvenor Capital Management, a firm that’s chaired by Emanuel donor and confidante Michael Sacks.
Joining Summers to co-chair Friends of the Lucas Museum will be Richard Lariviere, president and CEO of the Field Museum, and Susana Vasquez, executive director of non-profit community development organization LISC Chicago.
Vasquez succeeded Andrew Mooney in leading the organization when Mooney stepped down from LISC in 2011 after Emanuel named him commissioner of the Department of Housing and Economic Development.
Despite its high-profile chairs, a news release from Friends of the Lucas Museum says it will be made up of “Chicago residents, community organizations, arts and cultural partners, business and non-profit leaders from across the City of Chicago and the greater Chicagoland region.”
A Tribune poll last month found 32 percent of Chicago voters said they think the lakefront is a good spot for Lucas’ proposed museum, 20 percent said it’s a bad location, and 43 percent said it “doesn’t matter.”
Emanuel has said he’s confident the lakefront location would stand up to a lawsuit, pointing out that the parcel the city plant to give Lucas currently is taken up mainly by parking lots.
Public hearings will get underway next month and take place during the following six months, officials announced Wednesday at a Chicago Park District meeting.
Preliminary plans for the construction, use and operation of the museum were presented at the meeting.
The plans that were laid out on a five-page document called a memorandum of understanding and handed out to each Park District Commissioner are nonbinding, Gia Biagi, chief of staff for the Park District, announced at the meeting Wednesday.