Lakewood’s Museum of Divine Statues rescues religious art from an uncertain fate (photos)

Artist Lou McClung restores, curates one of the most unique museums in Northeast Ohio

Lakewood’s Museum of Divine Statues rescues religious art from an uncertain fate (photos)
The Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood is home to dozens of statues that lost their home when Cleveland churches close. (Michael Dakota)

LAKEWOOD, OH (WOIO) -The Museum of Divine Statues is a uniquely peaceful experience.

This home to local antiquities is the culmination of one man’s passion and faith that began with the restoration of a single statue.

The facility has grown into a museum featuring dozens of statues, chalices, monstrance and stained glass windows.

The Museum of Divine Statues, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood, is home to dozens of religious artifacts and statues that were acquired by artist Lou McClung after area churches closed.
The Museum of Divine Statues, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood, is home to dozens of religious artifacts and statues that were acquired by artist Lou McClung after area churches closed. (Michael K. Dakota)

Inside the nondescript former church is a cornucopia of history and art that is unlike anything else in Cleveland.

Artist Lou McClung is on a mission to rescue and restore religious statues, most of which come from closed churches.

Located at 12905 Madison Ave., in Lakewood, the museum is for everyone.

“There’s something here for everybody to see, so it doesn’t matter if someone is Catholic because so many people of different faiths have come her,” McClung said.

The nonprofit is operating on faith.

“I specifically purchased the property, so we could build the museum,” McClung said.

McClung purchased the former Hedwig church, school and grounds, converted the 1800s era church to a museum, uses the 1920s era school to operate his cosmetics business and lives in the rectory.

There is no formal count on the amount of statues McClung has collected, and he seems unclear how many there are.

The museum is full, and the history of each statue is provided for guests to familiarize themselves with the saints they represent.

Several of the statues in the museum date back to 1855.

Because many of the statues would face an uncertain fate McClung wants the statues to stay in Cleveland instead of being sold and shipped to other states.

“We wanted to make sure that some of the art stayed in Cleveland to represent the closed churches and the people who bought them when the churches were built,” McClung said.

The Museum of Divine Statues, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood, is home to dozens of religious artifacts and statues that were acquired by artist Lou McClung after area churches closed.
The Museum of Divine Statues, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood, is home to dozens of religious artifacts and statues that were acquired by artist Lou McClung after area churches closed. (Michael K. Dakota)

“We need help, so we can keep going,” McClung admitted.

An anonymous donor helped the museum keep going, and McClung said he could enlarge the museum to accommodate more collections.

“We are working on expanding the museum, we would double the size, create access for people with disabilities,” McClung said.

“People don’t realize the time and work that goes into it,” he noted.

While there is a plan to utilize the school and double the floor space McClung knows he is dependent on donations.

Many of the statues that arrive must be restored and McClung does that in a small room on the gallery floor.

“Over the last 80 to 100 years the statues get repainted by parishioners, they have good intentions, but it’s not the proper way, they are brightly colored, I return them back to the way they are intended,” McClung said. “I return them back to the way they were painted, much more muted.”

The Museum of Divine Statues, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood, is home to dozens of religious artifacts and statues that were acquired by artist Lou McClung after area churches closed.
The Museum of Divine Statues, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood, is home to dozens of religious artifacts and statues that were acquired by artist Lou McClung after area churches closed. (Michael K. Dakota)

Tours can be scheduled during the week and Saturday and Sunday hours are kept permitting guests to visit.

“What I like about the museum is I want people to come in here, perhaps you aren’t Catholic or any faith,” McClung said. “You’ll be able to read these stories about people, saints, and nuns and understand what life was like for that person.”

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