Columnists Mayor Eric Garcetti Opinion

COMMUNITY REPORT: Lucas Museum helps invest in South L.A.’s future

Art exists to inspire and move, to educate and excite. And as the creative capital of the world, that’s a big part of our identity as Angelenos.

When construction begins next year on the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park, it will mean a great many things to Los Angeles: the addition of a world-class institution to our city’s cultural landscape, drawing visitors from around the globe who will travel here to be immersed in stories told on canvas and celluloid; an investment of more than $1 billion in South L.A., arriving with a striking architectural gem that will forever be a touchstone; and an estimated 1,500 construction jobs — followed by 350 permanent positions, which will fall under a local hire program to ensure that residents within a three-mile radius have access to employment.

Yet, years from the day those doors swing open, we already know that this is much larger than an investment in a park, a city or even a museum. We fought for Lucas not only to create new jobs and secure the biggest cultural prize in America — but to unlock our imaginations and inspire us to put arts education to all of our schools.

Thousands of students attend school within walking distance of Exposition Park, where the museum is putting down roots alongside other Los Angeles icons. Countless young people will quickly and easily get to a single place and visit the California Science Center for a journey to the world of space exploration, be moved by the richness of black history and artistic expression at the California African American Museum, learn about the origins of our Earth at the Natural History Museum, and enter the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to test the boundaries of their own creativity and see things they have only imagined become real through storytelling.

Mellody Hobson — who, with her husband George Lucas, is the driving force behind the project — said it best in an interview shortly after L.A. was selected as the home for the 300,000-square-foot museum: “We wanted to be here because of the community. We thought that it was in a community where we could make a difference. It was a community that wanted us.”

That generosity and vision are why I worked closely with Mellody and George to bring the museum — the largest museum gift from one family to a city in our nation’s history — to L.A. We celebrated together after it won final City Council approval last month, joined by Councilman Curren Price and surrounded by children who will draw immeasurable inspiration from the Lucas Museum after it opens in 2020.

“One of the things I have said about this museum is that it is a school for schools,” Mellody said when we stood together on June 27. “It’s not just a museum; it is a place [for] not only students, children and adults but schools and academics. People will come from all over the world to learn — and ultimately thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands will be served from this one building and all of the neighboring [institutions].”

That’s a vision worthy of our city — a place that is always redefining what it means to set our sights a little higher, to build, to dare and to dream.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs every month in The Wave.