Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George was inspired by the concept and the painting of Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” But here I’m referring to another George -- Lucas, of course -- and another park, this one being built in George Lucas’ longtime hometown, San Anselmo, California.
Lucas has lived in the bucolic city of 12,000, located 20 miles north of San Francisco, since the 1970s and wrote the screenplay for Star Wars in his house there. Connie Rodgers, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, had heard that Lucas had some ideas about a long-discussed and much-needed outdoor town gathering space. So she decided last year that it couldn’t hurt to ask the movie maker if he’d consider donating some commercial land he owned next to Town Hall. Within a couple of weeks Lucas agreed not only to donate the fifth of an acre plot, but to demolish the old commercial buildings on the site.
The land was deeded over to the San Anselmo Community Foundation, which is responsible for paying back a loan used to build the pocket park and to fund its maintenance and upkeep.
And there was a bonus: Lucas donated a life-size bronze statue of Yoda by sculptor Lawrence Noble; it’s just like the one that graces a fountain outside the San Francisco headquarters of Lucasfilm at the Letterman Digital Arts Center. That has become a must-stop for many visitors to the city with cameras in tow. And then Lucas doubled the bonus by adding the only larger than life-size Indiana Jones bronze sculpture that Noble has ever produced, scaled up from a limited-edition two-foot-high statue.
“The park will be very public,” Rodgers says. “There will be meandering paths, trees, park benches, and a 15-foot diameter fountain where the bronzes will be anchored.” Rodgers says that the park won’t be fenced off in any manner, but notes that the San Anselmo police station is right next door.
Rodgers and others expect that the park and its statues will become a bit of a mecca not only for local residents, but also the worldwide community of Star Wars and Indiana Jones fans, who will have a new, idyllic spot to stop when they tour Northern California and want to see places that are in some way connected to their favorite movies.
While the park is expected to be completed as early as sometime this month, there will be two official inauguration ceremonies in August, initially one for children and later the first of what’s planned to be an annual fundraiser dinner under the stars.
Fundraising has already begun, but there are still naming opportunities ranging from $100 to $25,000 (if you’d like to be a statue sponsor). At the entry level ($100 to $2,499), fans can get their names permanently inscribed on leaves of a bronze “giving tree” in the park. The size of the donation determines the size of the bronze leaf -- but every contribution helps. It could be amazing to travel across the state, or the country, or even halfway around the world and see your name as part of a worldwide community of fan supporters.
Steve Sansweet, head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm for 15 years and now Fan Relations Adviser, is chief executive of Rancho Obi-Wan, a non-profit museum that houses the world’s largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia. To find out about joining or taking a guided tour, visit www.ranchoobiwan.org. Follow on Twitter @RanchoObiWan and https://www.facebook.com/RanchoObiWan.