Local politics is a tough thing to beat in Chicago.
George Lucas learned that lesson over the course of the last nearly two years. The creator of the “Star Wars” franchise had hoped to display his art collection in the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a massive attraction along Lake Michigan to include comic art, photography, film and magazine illustrations, as well as “Star Wars” memorabilia and a collection of Norman Rockwell paintings.
The estimated cost of the 300,000-SF museum, nearly $750 million, was to be funded by Lucas.
Soon after the project was announced, however, in the fall of 2014 — with a proposed opening in late 2018 — a local preservationist group filed a federal lawsuit to block the construction, claiming the museum, which would have replaced a parking lot, should be built at a different site away from the lakefront, which is considered land reserved for public use.
The legal challenge was never resolved, and on June 24, Lucas told city leaders he was ending his effort to build the museum in Chicago.
Caught in the middle of the project’s uncertainty is Don Bacigalupi, who spent five years helping Alice Walton establish Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. He started with the museum in August 2009 as executive director and was named its first president in February 2013. The museum opened Nov. 11, 2011.
Bacigalupi left Crystal Bridges in January 2015 as Lucas’ hand-picked choice to be the founding president of his proposed museum. That decision, obviously, has not worked out the way Bacigalupi had envisioned, but multiple reports indicate Lucas plans to shop the museum elsewhere. Perhaps California.
Hopefully, Bacigalupi, who is still a Crystal Bridges board member, has the patience to remain involved.
He’s already helped one billionaire open a world-class museum, so he might just have a knack for that sort of thing.