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CRENSHAW : Muralist to Depict a Magic Career

March 19, 1995|ERIN J. AUBRY

Construction of the Magic Johnson Theatres may still be in the early phases, but the project has secured at least one crucial piece of interior decorating.

Inglewood artist Charles Freeman has won a contest sponsored by theater representatives to design a huge mural honoring "Four Great Moments" in the former basketball star's career.

Freeman, a seasoned muralist who has 10 works displayed around the city, depicts Johnson as a basketball legend, Olympic athlete and businessman. The 3-by-9-foot rendering will be reproduced on a 1,007-square-foot wall in the theater lobby.

His vision was chosen from 20 submissions from local artists by a panel that included Johnson, Watts Tower Arts Center Director Mark Greenfield and Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Public Art Director Rouella Louie. Freeman will receive $5,000 for his rendering.

Construction of the eight-screen Magic Johnson Theatres, a venture by the former basketball star and Sony Pictures, began in January and is scheduled to be completed in June.

"This (mural project) is definitely a great opportunity for me to artistically express myself in such a grand magnitude," said Freeman, an Inglewood resident who owns a sign and graphics business called Brush Magic Sign and Design. "I burned a lot of midnight oil to get this done, but fortunately I had the inspiration and it worked out."

Freeman's other murals include "Return to the Light" at the Carlota Park Apartments in Highland Park and "Spirit of '76," an interpretation of the famous painting at Downtown Los Angeles' Patriotic Hall.

For the Johnson rendering, Freeman said he applied his portrait-painting skills to the "Four Great Moments" theme--in record time. He heard about the competition late, he said, and wound up having less than a week to complete his submission. Though the work was technically unfinished, officials were impressed enough to award Freeman the job.

"I didn't think I would have time, but like I said, I got inspired," he said. "Fortunately, I have a lot of experience doing this, so actually painting it wasn't much of a challenge."

Freeman added that he was "honored to be able to execute the mural, which hopefully captures the essence of Magic Johnson, the person. And I hope it will serve to inspire younger artists who come through and see it."

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