Mural of Michael Jackson on Theater Wins Approval

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A much-delayed mural depicting an 80-foot-tall Michael Jackson--which many believe is being paid for by the pop star--can now be placed on the facade of the historic El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

The building's owners and the Hollywood Arts Council announced Tuesday that they had received approval for the project from the National Park Service in Washington. The park agency has jurisdiction because the 66-year-old theater, restored by the Walt Disney Co. at a cost of about $6 million in 1991, is designated as a historic site.

The approval came in an appeal of an August ruling by the park service's western regional office in San Francisco and the California Office of Historic Preservation that the mural was incompatible with the historic building.

In the letter reversing that finding, the park service's chief appeals officer, H. Ward Jandl, said that although the mural will be highly visible "it does not . . . obscure or otherwise diminish the architecture of the El Capitan Theatre."

Jandl said he received new material to support the contention that attaching the mural to the wall will not "adversely affect the historic character of the building" and that there is a precedent for large-scale movie signs on the boulevard.

Arts Council President Nyla Arslanian said the next step is installation of the artwork, which already has been painted on a canvas-like material by renowned Los Angeles-based muralist Kent Twitchell and has been in storage for months. Arslanian would not disclose the timetable for the installation.

Planning for the mural has gone on for several years, and the Arts Council received approval for the project in 1991 from the building's owners, Nick Olaerts and Thomas L. Harnsberger. The council will pay them about $10,000 per year to rent the wall space, with a portion of the money going to the Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit historic preservation organization that acts as caretaker for the building's facades.

The project has been cloaked in secrecy and few people have seen renderings of the Twitchell design.

Many who have followed the project insist that Jackson or his company is footing the bill, although Jackson's representatives have declined to comment.

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