George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson spreading philanthropy in Chicago

George Lucas, famous for his work directing Star Wars and Indiana Jones, is teaming up with his wife, Chicago investment fund chief Mellody Hobson, to give $25 million that will go to building a deluxe arts center for a private grade school and high school at UIC. At the Lucas’ request, the new center will be named Gordon Parks Arts Hall, after the revered photojournalist slash film director who became the first black director of a major studio film in 1969.
The substantial new center will be used by students and faculty at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Expected to open in 2015, it will contain a gallery, studios, visual art/performance spaces, rehearsal rooms, a digital media lab and more. The arts haven will support all types of programs for kids including theater, music and visual arts. The Lucas’ gift will cover more than half the cost of the facility, which will take $43.7 million to complete.

Lucas told The University of Chicago News: “We believe in the power of art to transform lives and communities, Gordon Parks’ work did just that,” he explained. “Keeping his example at the heart of one of the nation’s outstanding urban schools will serve to inspire future generations for many years to come.”

Hobson also weighed in to UofC News. “It was important to us that the University of Chicago campus have a building named for an African American, given the diverse community in which it sits, and the outstanding contributions to our society by people of color,” she said.

According to the Tribune, Hobson’s mentor, Ariel Investments founder and CEO John Rogers Jr., an alumnus of Laboratory Schools and now chairman of its board, approached UIC about the gift.

In the past few months, the George Lucas Family Foundation has announced they will give $50 million in gifts to Chicago. However, their motives do not only lie the renowned filmmaker sharing his artistic passion with children, the philanthropy also reflects Hobson’s position as president of Ariel Investments, a Chicago firm that manages $9 billion in assets.

Two months ago, the Lucas foundation pledged $25 million over a period of five years to After School Matters, a Chicago program that gives teens an outlet to explore their talents via after-school programs as well as prepare them for their future careers. The Lucas money will go to fund stipends to give kids as in incentive to stay in the program and off the streets.

But Lucas’ biggest philanthropic gesture happened in L.A. as a $175-million pledge in 2006 to his alma mater, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. The Los Angeles Times says the money went to fund a new Interactive Media Building that opened last year.

Now San Francisco officials are concerned that Lucas might pack up and leave for another city, maybe even Chicago, to build a museum for his movie memorabilia from the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” film franchises


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