St. Malachi Parish, well known in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for its community outreach programs assisting those in need, will be the location of one of six bronze sculptures from the Matthew 25 Collection created by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz.
The announcement was made on July 29 by the Community West Foundation, which acquired the artwork. Each sculpture is thematically connected to the mission of one of Community West Foundation’s grantees and community partners. The locations chosen are in and around the Near West Side of Cleveland and surrounding neighborhoods. Cleveland is the only other city in the world besides Rome, Italy to have the full collection of bronze sculptures in the Matthew 25 Collection.
“Homeless Jesus” will be a permanent installation at St. Malachi, 2459 Washington Ave., Cleveland. The sculpture is expected to be delivered in August and installed in September.
Two other institutions with Catholic ties, Malachi House, 2810 Clinton Ave., Cleveland, and Urban Community School, 4909 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, also will be home to a sculpture from the collection. Malachi House, which ministers to the terminally ill in the final stages of life who have limited or no financial resources, will receive “When I was Naked.” The sculpture is scheduled to arrive in September and to be installed on Sept. 25. The “When I was a Stranger” sculpture is scheduled to arrive and be installed in September at the Refugee Response on the campus of Urban Community School, 4909 Lorain Ave., Cleveland.
Unveiling dates for these three sculptures will be announced later.
Also serving as permanent homes for additional Schmalz sculptures from the collection are Cleveland Clinic Lutheran Hospital, 1730 W. 25th St., Cleveland, “When I was Sick,” and Bridge CLE, formerly known as Family Ministry Center, 3389 Fulton Road, Cleveland, “When I was in Prison.”
The sixth piece, “When I was Hungry and Thirsty,” was acquired by and previously installed at Old Stone Church on Public Square in downtown Cleveland.
In 2017, Community West Foundation purchased a replica of the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture. Since then, it has traveled to dozens of churches and partner organizations as a powerful public reminder of the importance of caring for those in need. The sculpture was on display in early May for the opening of the new Blessing House in Elyria, a facility for children and families in crisis.
In October 2020, the replica sculpture was placed on the grounds of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village, which prompted a call to the police regarding a homeless person laying on a park bench. The incident received local and national media attending, sparking significant public dialogue about the issues of social justice, privilege, compassion and empathy.
After this experience, Community West Foundation decided to expand the important conversation and dialogue by purchasing the five remaining pieces of art. The foundation’s mission is to advance the health and well-being of the community. As a funder, it provides grants to nonprofit organizations that offer basic needs programs and services to those in need in Cleveland Western Cuyahoga and Lorain counties. The staff and board of directors take guidance from the Gospel of Matthew to direct their grantmaking and said they view the sculptures as a visual representation of their purpose.
The life-size sculptures are three-dimensional. The original sculpture was made from clay at Schmalz’s home. From that, he made a rubber mold. He uses the services of a foundry to make the bronze casts.
“I strive to create artwork that connects with viewers through design and details that touch them on an emotional level, allowing them to feel somewhat a ‘part’ of the piece,” Schmalz said.
“Homeless Jesus” depicts the need for shelter and raises awareness of the homeless population in the community in need of care and compassion.
“When I was Sick” is representative of not just physical illness. It also shows the many ways illness can affect people including mental health, addiction, disability and abuse.
“When I was in Prison” portrays the loneliness of those who are incarcerated and the struggles they face upon reentry into society.
“When I was a Stranger” urges people to understand the difficulty immigrants face when entering a new country. They need compassion, acceptance and patience.
“When I was Naked” illustrates the vulnerability of the poor and those who live without their basic needs being met.
“When I was Hungry and Thirsty” portrays the desperation and hopelessness that those who are starving experience.
The Community West Foundation worked with local nonprofit LAND studio to design a master plan for the installation of the five sculptures throughout the community. The foundation raised the funds needed to purchase the artwork.
“We are grateful to our board of directors and other donors that contributed financially to this project,” said Marty Uhle, president and CEO of the Community West Foundation. “The lifespan of this artwork is 200-plus years. We are hopeful this collection will continue to communicate the importance of social justice for generations to come.”