NEW YORK.- Toby Devan Lewis, art collector, curator, author and philanthropist will receive the 2009 Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts Award conferred by ArtTable, the nation’s foremost organization of women leaders in the visual arts, at its 16th Annual Award Ceremony and Benefit Luncheon to be held on Friday, April 17, 11 am-2 pm, at the Mandarin Oriental New York hotel in Manhattan. Lewis’ curatorial achievements, philanthropy, and support of young and emerging artists will be celebrated. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison will deliver the keynote speech.
“In building the impressive 6300-plus collection for the Progressive Casualty Insurance Company that primarily featured works by emerging artists, Toby Lewis challenged established norms and successfully nudged a sometimes cautious corporate world into embracing new ideas and perspectives,” notes Peggy Loar Voorsanger, President of ArtTable. “A generous philanthropist, she has been a passionate collector and promoter of contemporary art, all the while continuing to foster creativity and the development of progressive institutions through her private foundation, The Toby Fund.” Lewis said of her commitment to the visual arts: "In an ever- changing world, it is imperative to be open to new ideas. This is natural for an artist - to offer ideas, to reflect, document, change, and challenge us to think about the possible and impossible. These are my goals for philanthropy and why I have chosen to support so many edgy, non-traditional individuals and programs." Lewis’ philanthropy has sustained projects and institutions such as: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Creative Capital, ideastream, Performa, Creative Time, Prospect.1 New Orleans and ArtPace.
Voorsanger said that the choice of Toni Morrison as keynote speaker was, in many ways, a natural. As a contributor to ArtWorks: The Progressive Collection (D.A.P./The Progressive Collection, 12/15/2007), Morrison commented in her foreword that "The real power of art is not in what it does to and for us, but in making us do something for ourselves, activating in some profound way our intelligence and summoning our own creativity."
“In honoring Toby Lewis’ great accomplishments, we also acknowledge the large strides women are making in the arts,” says Dena Muller, Executive Director of ArtTable, which increases the effectiveness, visibility and diversity of women in the field through activities and initiatives supporting women at all stages of their careers. “Since ArtTable’s founding twenty-nine years ago, more positions in the non-profit and commercial stewardship of the visual arts have been filled - and created - by women. Philanthropy like that of Toby Lewis’ has gone a long way to supporting this expansion in the field.”
The Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts Award recognizes exceptional women in the arts. It was first conferred in 1993 on the late Kitty Carlisle Hart, a leading cultural ambassador and former chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts. This year’s award will be presented to Lewis by Vishakha N. Desai, President and CEO of the Asia Society and the recipient of last year’s award. The award is a bronze sculpture by Louise Bourgeois created exclusively for ArtTable to honor each of our annual Awardees. This high-energy annual event traditionally attracts hundreds of art world leaders. Margaret Mathews-Berenson and Denise Mullen are co-chairs of the luncheon, which is sponsored by Bloomberg, Agnes Gund, Peter Lewis, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s, and Voorsanger Architects. ArtTable will also feature Toby Devan Lewis in an informal dialogue with colleague and friend Jill Snyder, the Executive Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, on Thursday, April 16 from 6:30 – 8:30pm at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York as a component of the 2009 Annual ArtTable Members’ Meeting and Reception. The 2009 Benefit Raffle features Untitled #1034 (Lily Pond - Tip Toe Thru Bows), 2001 a silver gelatin print by Petah Coyne, courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York. Raffle tickets are $50 each; attendance at the 2009 Luncheon is not required to win. Tickets to ArtTable’s 16th Annual Award Luncheon are $300 ($225 ArtTable members), $500 (Benefactor) and $1000 (Leader). Tables range from $3000 to $10,000. For further information, please contact Jessica Palmieri at 212-343-1735 x25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early in her career, Toby Devan Lewis headed public relations, sales and marketing for the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, now the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. But when her husband asked her to create an art collection for his company, she jumped at the chance. Said Lewis in a WCPN 90.3 FM interview: “From the very beginning, we [her ex-husband Peter B. Lewis, Chairman of the Progressive Casualty Insurance Company] wanted the collection to be the best of any company, the best in the city, the best in the country! He also wanted it to be very different from other corporate collections. We didn’t want it to be easy, though we didn’t want a controversy every week. But we loved the dialogue and discussions it stimulated.
“Art at Progressive became, well, progressive –- very much about what is happening today, designed to surprise and provoke, because I believe artists are the seers of the future; they seem to get there before we do.” She said the very first work she put on the walls – Warhol’s Mao Collection – spawned a petition drive to remove it from the walls. “This was on the heels of the Vietnam War and people said they didn’t want Mao’s image hanging there.” Fifteen years later, they didn’t bat an eye when the series was re-hung. “As controversial art becomes familiar it becomes acceptable… My philosophy is that art changes you whether you know it or not. We wanted to challenge our employees, challenge their preconceptions, and get them to think in different ways.” She also relished the role of patron to emerging artists, many of whom became the stars of the contemporary art world. “We felt we were like the Medicis,” she mused. Among the artists she collected: Vito Acconci, Francis Alys, John Baldessari, Tina Barney, Petah Coyne, Gregory Crewdson, Frank Gehry, Nan Goldin, Andy Goldsworthy, Andreas Gursky, David Hockney, Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Takashi Murakami, Robert Rauschenberg, Beverly Semmes, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Richard Tuttle and Andy Warhol.
Lewis was born in 1934, educated at Skidmore College, University of Pennsylvania and Case Western Reserve University. In 2007, she received the 2007 Martha Joseph Prize for Distinguished Service to the Arts. In 2004, she was the recipient of the Award of Excellence from the International Association of Professional Art Advisors, and in 1998 she was honored by the New Museum for her “significant contribution in bringing the visual arts and creative experience to the work environment.” Again, in 1996 she was honored by IAPAA for “helping to foster a spirit of creativity and interest in new ideas and new ways of thinking.”
In addition to building Progressive’s art collection, under Lewis’ direction the company commissioned an artist or groups of artists each year to create works for its annual report, relating it to a theme important to the company. The Progressive Annual Report has received more than 500 awards since it began these commissions in 1979, virtually from every organization, society, publication, group and association in the fields of business, finance and visual communication, affirming Progressive’s Annual Reports as the most respected, honored and visible in the world and history of corporate communications. Among artists commissioned for the report were: Greg Crewdson, Teun Hocks, Carlos Vega, Carter Kustera, Greg Colson, and John Coplans. Some of the most revered awards include the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Annual Report 100 (Most awards in 22 year history),Women in Communications Award, Mead Annual Report Show (Most awards in 41 year history), International Association Business communicators, and the New York Art Directors Award.
Lewis’ philanthropy includes providing the initial funding for Prospect.1 New Orleans, as well as support for Creative Capital and Performa and major gifts to the New Museum of New York, where she is an active member of its Board of Trustees. She also serves on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, ArtPace, San Antonio, Texas, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and the Cleveland Film Society. She has also contributed major gifts to ideastream, where she served on its board, for its new Idea Center, a collaborative space for WVIZ, WCPN, and Playhouse Square Foundation.
In 2007 she published a book on the Progressive art collection titled, ART WORKS. In 2006, she began The Toby Fund, a private foundation, to foster creativity in the arts, education, health, environment and the development of progressive institutions.
Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of the Humanities, Emerita at the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University. Ms. Morrison has degrees from Howard and Cornell Universities. She was appointed the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University spring 1989.
Her nine major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, Love and A Mercy have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. Both novels were chosen as the main selections for the Book of the Month Club in 1977 and 1987 respectively. In 2006 Beloved was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as the best work of American fiction published in the last quarter-century. Ms. Morrison co-authored the children’s books Remember, the Who’s Got Game? series, The Book of Mean People and The Big Box.
Ms. Morrison’s lyrics “Honey and Rue,” commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Kathleen Battle, with music by Andre Previn, premiered January 1992; “Four Songs” with music by Mr. Previn, premiered by Sylvia McNair at Carnegie Hall, November 1994; “Sweet Talk” written for Jessye Norman with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered April 1997; and “Woman.Life.Song” commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Jessye Norman with music by Judith Weir, premiered April 2000; the opera “Margaret Garner” with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered in May 2005.
In fall 2005 Ms. Morrison was the guest curator at the Musée du Louvre in its "Grand Invité" program where she curated a month-long series of events across the arts on the theme of "The Foreigner's Home."
Ms. Morrison has received honorary degrees from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, Dartmouth, Yale, Georgetown, Colombia, Brown, University of Michigan, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Université Paris 7-Denis Diderot and the Université Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV. She was also the first recipient of the Washington College Literary Award in 1987 and was a New York State Governor’s Arts Awardee in 1986.
Other prestigious awards include: the Du Bois Medal, 2005; the 2000 National Humanities Medal, the 2000 Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend award; the 1996 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters; Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature, 1994; the Condorcet Medal, Paris, 1994; Pearl Buck Award, 1994; Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, Paris, 1993; the Modern Language Association of America Commonwealth Award in Literature, 1989; Sara Lee Corporation Front Runner Award in the Arts, 1989; Anisfield Wolf Book Award in Race Relations, 1988; the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature in 1978; and the Distinguished Writer Award of 1978 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
She was a senior editor at Random House for twenty years.
Toni Morrison is a trustee of the New York Public Library, a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 1993 Ms. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.