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Jackson Mural Runs Up Against a Wall : Art: Government agency nixes plans to place a giant likeness of the rock star on the facade of the historic El Capitan Theatre.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michael Jackson’s prospect of larger-than-life status on Hollywood Boulevard has been blocked by a government agency’s ruling against plans to place an 80-foot-tall, $200,000 mural of the pop music star on a wall of the historically designated El Capitan Theatre.

But the Hollywood Arts Council says it isn’t giving up on plans to have renowned Los Angeles-based muralist Kent Twitchell display the giant artwork which he has prepared.

“We strongly disagree with the position of the National Park Service and we are evaluating what steps we will take,” said Nyla Arslanian, the Arts Council president. “We are saddened and dismayed that the regional officials of the National Park Service . . . some of whom by their own admission have never even been to Hollywood, would line up with forces of repression and censorship which are attempting to stifle redevelopment. . . . This is a marvelous project and Hollywood needs it.”

Michael Crowe, an architectural historian for the park service’s Western regional office in San Francisco, said his office denied the mural request after meeting last week with Arslanian, Twitchell and others. He said the mural, because of its size, location and lighting, would “introduce a dramatic new feature that will effectively compete with and partially obscure the historic features and character of the building.”

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Arslanian said the Arts Council has not yet decided if it will appeal to a higher level in Washington.

Discussion of the mural emerged in the last few months after years of being a secretive project by the Arts Council--a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization of Hollywood district citizens and businesses that aims to improve neighborhood conditions by arts-related efforts. All requests to see renderings of the mural, which is painted on a fabric to be affixed on the building, have been declined. Arslanian said on Tuesday that Twitchell has completed the work and it is in storage.

Until recently, the Arts Council declined to discuss the mural, where the idea originated and when it planned to erect it. Arslanian maintains that the donor of funds for the project is “anonymous,” leading to speculation among critics that the originator is the mysterious Jackson himself.

The project’s secrecy lifted as various community groups and Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo, who represents the Hollywood area, spoke about the merits of the mural, while critics made their opposition known.

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The Los Angeles Conservancy, the community group assigned authority for the vintage theater’s facade by owners Nick Olaerts and Thomas L. Harnsberger in exchange for historical building tax credits, has approved the project. Earlier this year, a small group of Hollywood activists voiced opposition to the idea of Jackson as the subject of the mural. They contend a more appropriate candidate is Orson Welles, whose 1941 “Citizen Kane” had its premiere at the theater.

According to conservancy president Amy Forbes, the mural and the process by which it would be affixed to the wall “meet the standards. The process is completely reversible.”

The mural needed approval of the park service and the California Office of Historic Preservation because its application affects the El Capitan’s facade. Both agencies are involved because the Walt Disney Co. is applying for more than $1 million in federal tax credits in exchange for the estimated $6 million in restoration work it completed in June, 1991, on the 1926 theater.


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