Obituary: Toby Devan Lewis
August 7, 1934 – April 29, 2022
Beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and dear friend to many, Toby Devan Lewis has also been a philanthropist, art collector, curator and author. Toby, as she was known, was a dynamo who always lived life to the fullest. She passed away on Friday, April 29, 2022 at her home in Cleveland.
For more than 20 years from 1985-2005, Lewis compiled an art collection by emerging artists for the Progressive Corporation, the nation’s third largest auto insurer. The work she collected during her tenure included more than 6300 works and has been rated as one of the country’s top collections by Art & Auction Magazine. Toby wanted the art she collected to challenge how we perceive the world and it did.
Under Toby’s direction, Progressive began commissioning an artist or group of artists to create work for the company’s annual reports that reflected the company’s missions, values and goals in 1979. Durng her tenure, the Progressive Annual Report received more than 500 awards from associations in the fields of finance, business and visual communications since it began commissioning this work.
Toby also published a book on the art collection she compiled for the Progressive Corporation entitled ART WORKS in 2007. Toby’s support for emerging artists – many of whom later emerged and became leading artists of their generation – is legendary.
Toby began her career in fashion as a model and then became a personal shopper. She had incredible taste and was always generous in sharing her vision with others.
Toby then turned her eye to the world of contemporary art where she headed public relations, sales and marketing for the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, which ultimately grew into Cleveland MOCA. She served on the board there beginning in 1986. She is currently an honorary board member.
As part of the Annual Cleveland Arts Prize, Toby received the Martha Joseph Prize for Distinguished Service for the Arts in 2007. In 1996 and again in 2004, Toby received the Award of Excellence from the International Association of Professional Art Advisors. In 1998, Toby was honored by The New Museum for her “significant contribution to bringing the visual arts and creative experience to the work environment.” In 2009, Toby was honored by ArtTable NY for her contributions to the arts.
In 2006, Toby created the TOBY Fund, a foundation dedicated to fostering creativity in the arts, education, health, the environment and progressive institutions. Lewis has given major gifts to the New Museum in NYC where she served on the board from 1995-2020. Lewis has also served on the boards of Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Film Festival, the Cleveland Institute of Art and Performa.
Lewis has made significant contributions to the New Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Clinic and the ACLU. Lewis also created The Toby Fund to give graduating Master of Fine Arts students at several schools grants of $10,000 each to help them as they launched their careers.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on August 7, 1934, Toby spent her young years in Poughkeepsie and Gloversville, NY. She started college at Skidmore, transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and then graduated from Western Reserve University after she moved to Cleveland to marry Peter B. Lewis in 1955. Though Toby and Peter divorced, they worked together at the Progressive Corporation where Peter was the CEO and Chairman of the Board when he offered Toby the job of creating an art collection.
She is survived by her three children, Ivy Beth Lewis of Cleveland, Ohio Jonathan (Mark Zitelli) Lewis of Miami, Florida and Adam (Melony) Lewis of Aspen, Colorado, grandchildren, Ariel (Christopher) Green of Lake Forest, IL, Augusta (Harrison Silver) Powell of Washington, DC, Max Lewis and Ben Lewis of Aspen, Colorado and her great granddaughter, Eva Green, her brother, Fred Devan of Piermont, NY, her brother-in-law, Daniel Lewis of Miami, Florida and many beloved nieces and nephews. Her grandson, Dakota William Powell, predeceased her in 2017.
Services will be private.
Donations can be made to The New Museum (www.newmuseum.org) or The Jewish National Forest (www.jnf.org).
To view the funeral service at 3 PM on Sunday, May 1, 2022 please navigate to https://www.ttti.org/live-streaming-home-page/ .
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at http://www.bkbmc.com for the Lewis family.
Arrangements under the direction of Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel (216) 932-7900.
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