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Lucas Museum Breaks Ground Wednesday In Exposition Park

EXPOSITION PARK (CBSLA/AP) — "Star Wars" creator George Lucas visited a galaxy on the edge of downtown Los Angeles Wednesday morning to break ground on his $1.5 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

The museum is being constructed in Exposition Park, just south of USC, where Lucas attended film school. In January 2017, Lucas announced he had chosen Los Angeles over San Francisco as the site of the museum.

"I wanted a special museum that is a work of art in itself," Lucas told the gathering.

Lucas and his family are paying fully for the museum's construction and endowment, with a cost slated at $1.5 billion. The project will cost taxpayers nothing and create more than 1,500 construction jobs and at least 350 permanent jobs, according to the soon-to-be-built museum's website.

"Yes, this is an art museum, but I'm trying to position it also as an anthropological museum," Lucas said.

"Popular art is an insight into a society and what they aspire to, what they really want, what they really are," he added. "Because it's telling the narrative of their story, their history, their belief system."

Los Angeles officials say it is the largest public gift ever given to a municipality.

The museum plans to feature a five-story building with 300,000 square feet of floor area for a cafe and restaurant, theaters, office space, lecture halls, a library, classrooms, exhibition space and landscaped open space.

Scheduled to open in 2021, it is envisioned as not just a repository for "Star Wars" memorabilia but a wide-ranging museum representing all forms of visual storytelling from paintings and drawings to comic strips and digital and traditional films.

The latter will run the gamut from 1927's futuristic masterpiece "Metropolis" to Orson Welles' groundbreaking 1941 film "Citizen Kane" to the Lucas-Steven Spielberg collaborations on the "Indiana Jones" movies.

It will house works by painters such as Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as illustrations, comic art and photography by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth. It will be a "barrier- free museum" where "artificial divisions between `high' art and `popular' art are absent," according to the museum's website.

Of course the Force will also be strong with "Star Wars" stuff, including Luke Skywalker's first lightsaber and Darth Vader's helmet.

But, Lucas emphasized when the City Council voted 14-0 to approve the project last year that the museum is hardly intended to be a vanity project.

"The idea is that it's popular art, it's art that appeals to people emotionally and tells you something about who you are," he said.

Schematic drawings show the building looking a good deal like a version of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon spacecraft as it appears to hover above a section of Exposition Park.

The building is designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects.

It will be walking distance to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center and USC, which is where Lucas studied cinema before launching his career with the acclaimed 1971 science-fiction film "THX 1138."

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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