Toby Devan Lewis, Arts Patron and Philanthropist


Toby Devan Lewis could write the book on the art collection owned by Progressive Corporation, a Fortune 500 insurance company based in Cleveland. In fact, she has. It's called The Progressive Collection: Three Decades of Creativity, Vision, Honesty, and Risk.

As Progressive's curator for more than 20 years, from 1985 to 2005, Lewis was responsible for acquiring the collection's more than 6,300 works. Not only are Progressive's holdings among the country’s largest corporate assemblages of contemporary art, the collection has been ranked as “one of the country’s most refreshing” by Art & Auction magazine.

Lewis has also overseen the creation of Progressive’s annual reports. Since 1979, the company has commissioned an artist to contribute original work to grace the document's pages, winning more than 500 design awards in the process. 

Lewis has won honors as well, including an Award of Excellence from the International Association of Professional Art Advisors and a Northern Ohio LIVE Award of Achievement, as well as awards from Women in Communications, International Business Communicators and New York Art Directors. New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, whose operation she has supported with a $4 million contribution (her largest philanthropic gift to date) has recognized her “significant contribution in bringing the visual arts and creative experience to the work environment.”

Lewis has served on the boards of trustees of many arts (and other not-for-profit) organizations, including San Antonio’s ArtPace, Aspen’s Anderson Ranch Arts Center, MOCA (Cleveland’s museum of contemporary art, where, early in her career, she worked in public relations and marketing), Ideastream (Cleveland’s public radio and television stations), the Cleveland Film Society and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

A dedicated supporter of young and emerging artists, Lewis recently created the Toby Fund, to give graduating master of fine arts students at several schools grants of $10,000 each. In curating the Progressive Collection, Lewis was always known for finding and nurturing young and then-unknown artists and never shying away from controversial works. As San Francisco art dealer Richard Polsky said, "Toby takes more chances than any corporate curator I know.”

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