Is George Lucas Gearing Up to Give Big?

Every time George Lucas is in the news, Star Wars fans' ears perk up. But this time, the director wasn't talking about Lucasfilm's $4 billion sale to Disney or the next round of Star Wars flicks. Instead, Lucas made the first hint at how he might spend his billions, proposing a visual storytelling museum for San Francisco's Presidio park.

He's ready to pay in full, too. Lucas said he would foot the bill for construction of the museum, which he estimates would cost between $250–300 million, and he's also ready to provide a $400 million endowment for the museum, with more financial support coming in the future.

Since selling his Lucasfilm empire to Disney late last year, Lucas hasn't discussed what he might do with his wealth. In several interviews, the director signaled he wanted to continue work in education and would donate a large portion to educational causes, but this project would be the biggest move in philanthropy he's made since the sale.

The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum — as it's being called now — would be a gathering place for families in the Bay Area, housing an enormous collection of art Lucas has been building over the years. The museum would focus on visual storytelling and populist artwork, showcasing comics, children's books, and other illustrations. Programs from Lucas' educational foundation Edutopia, which he founded in 1991 to transform the K-12 learning process, would also be featured at the museum.

"At this scale, there's nothing that has ever been done like this," Lucas said in a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

The project is also right in line with Lucas' other philanthropic work, as he's always been a strong supporter of the arts. His Lucasfilm Foundation is one of the nation’s top funders of the arts, ranking in the top 20 arts giving foundations according to the Foundation Center.

The project could be the tip of the giving iceberg, as well, leading to bigger grants for arts funding in the Bay Area. Since the Disney sale, Lucas has kept quiet about what he might do next. He's now retired from Lucasfilm and was also an original signer of The Giving Pledge. So whatever his next move is, it will likely include a great deal of giving in arts and education.

Of course, before the museum can become a reality, the proposal will have to be accepted by the Presidio Trust, and there’s some tough competition for the space. Lucas' proposal was one of 16, with others including a New Deal museum and an environmental center, and the location is in some prime real estate — sitting in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge.