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Letters: Chiefs of ten top Chicago museums support Lucas Museum

A rendering of what the Lucas Museum would look like at a proposed site at McCormick Place East.

As leaders in Chicago’s museum community, we would like to stress how much museums play an integral role in our city’s cultural and economic fabric.

Museums offer so much of what we value — culture, including art, history, science, nature, innovation, inspiration, and creativity. Great cities have great museums. Certainly this has been a winning formula over the years in Chicago.

We ask that certain key points be taken into consideration. First, we are talking about a potential philanthropic gift of historic proportions for any city.

George Lucas has pledged to spend nearly a billion dollars to create a one-of-a-kind institution of education and imagination for Chicago. He is not asking for money from the city. He is making a tremendous gift of a major cultural institution that will make our city more creative, more prosperous and more dynamic.

Second, this museum promises to be a world-class exploration of the art of visual storytelling. We agree with George Lucas that storytelling builds empathy and empathy is the foundation of our common humanity. It will be the first institution of its kind, one where visitors can trace how visual art has been used for thousands of years to convey powerful narratives and develop memorable characters. It will draw in an estimated 1 million tourists a year through its collections from renowned artists and illustrators, hands-on exhibits, cutting-edge digital technologies, classes and lectures, and daily film screenings. In fact, when part of Lucas’s collection of Norman Rockwell paintings was shown at the Smithsonian, attendance there ballooned over 50 percent. The museum will also host groundbreaking educational programs and workshops, where students of every age will explore the modes that artists use to tell stories and be inspired to create their own.

Third, the Lucas Museum is a long-term investment in our City that will continue to pay returns for generations to come – as our other museums have done. In its first ten years, the museum is projected to create thousands of construction jobs, permanent jobs, and bring in $2 billion to $2.5 billion in increased tourist spending, and generate $120 million to $160 million in new tax evenue. Drawing new tourists to Chicago translates to more visitors also discovering our City’s other attractions and planning return visits. This is the kind of economic boost that we need during these challenging times for our city and our state.

The final, and most pressing, fact is that we are on the cusp of losing this tremendous opportunity. Despite its approval by the city, state, and all relevant agencies, the dispute over the site has meant that construction has not begun.

The clock is ticking and a newly-announced compromise plan for replacing McCormick Place may be the last chance to secure George Lucas’ gift for Chicago.

We invite all concerned to give that plan very serious consideration. We must not lose this opportunity for our future.

Gary Johnson

President

Museums in the Park

Bridget Coughlin, Ph.D.

President & CEO

Shedd Aquarium

Perri Irmer

President & CEO

DuSable Musuem of African American History

Madeleine Grynsztejn

Pritzker Director Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Richard Lariviere, Ph.D.

President & CEO

The Field Museum

Michelle B. Larson, Ph.D.

President & CEO

Adler Planetarium

Deborah Lahey

President & CEO

Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

David Mosena

President & CEO

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Billy Ocasio

President

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture

James Rondeau

President

Eloise W. Martin

Director

The Art Institute of Chicago

Carlos Tortolero

President

National Museum of Mexican Art

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Alternative to progressive tax

Instead of amending the Illinois Constitution to create a progressive tax, an easier way would be to substantially increase the personal exemption while increasing the tax rate. By increasing the exemption to $10,000 per person, a family of four with an income of $40,000 would pay no state income tax, while a family of four with an income of $1 million would pay state tax on $960,000. That sounds fair and progressive to me.

Thomas Mackin, West Ridge