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Artwork Showing Fiery Deaths Causes Controversy At Temple University

February 19, 1986

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A sculpture of people burning to death in the city’s MOVE confrontation while Mayor W. Wilson Goode looked on was so upsetting to the mayor’s daughter that his wife tried to have it removed from Temple University, according to a report published Tuesday.

The seven-foot relief sculpture, by Ellen Powell-Tiberino, hangs in the main lobby of the Temple University Law School as part of an exhibit for Black History Month. Its blazing colors show three people engulfed in flames, while hovering above are the faces of Death, Goode and horrified spectators.

″I paint life,″ Ms. Powell-Tiberino said. ″And life is not always beautiful.″ She said she wanted to convey the pain she felt watching the MOVE disaster on television.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Goode’s daughter, Muriel, a third-year law student at Temple, was so disturbed by the artwork that the mayor’s wife, Velma, asked the city-funded Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum to see if it could have the work removed.

Mrs. Goode, a museum trustee, was told that it had no involvement in the display at Temple, the newspaper said.

Spencer Westin, an assisant director at the museum, said he had no knowledge of such a request. Karen Warrington, the mayor’s press secretary, said neither Goode nor his wife had complained to anyone about the sculpture.

Ms. Warrington said Tuesday that Goode didn’t know about the sculpture until a reporter contacted him Monday.

″The only comment that the mayor had is that he never to talked to Temple about the art,″ Ms. Warrington said.

Miss Goode’s telephone number is unpublished, and a black law students’ group at Temple to which Miss Goode belongs refused to take a message. The mayor’s press secretary said she was not a spokeswoman for the mayor’s family.

On May 13, police dropped a bomb on the roof of a fortified rowhouse occupied by members of the radical group MOVE to knock off a bunker and create an opening for tear gas. It sparked a fire that killed 11 MOVE members and destroyed 61 homes.

Ms. Powell-Tiberino said she and her husband, Joseph Tiberino, worked for two months to create the sculpture, ″The MOVE Confrontation,″ and incorporated such items as mop strings and steel wool for hair, real clothing and even a dog’s skull.

James Shellenberger, a Temple law professor who is chairman of the law school’s art committee, said no city official had complained to him about the sculpture.

While Goode’s daughter has not contacted him, ″I had heard from other students that she was very upset,″ he said. Some students have suggested that the sculpture be moved out of the lobby, but he has received no formal complaints, Shellenberger said.

Dean Carl Singley, who is also a member of the city’s special commission investigating the MOVE disaster, said he had not known about the sculpture before it was hung in the main lobby, a decision of the art committee.

″If I had known, I would not have intervened,″ he said Tuesday. ″I think it is inappropriate to make a decision of whether or where to hang an artwork based on political considerations.″

Ms. Powell-Tiberino said she did not create the sculpture to hurt the Goode family, but added: ″I feel I must be true to myself when it comes to art.″

She added that many students told her on the opening day of the exhibition that they were disturbed by the work.

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