It was 1974. After nearly 40 years in business, Progressive had just moved its headquarters from downtown Cleveland, Ohio, to the suburb of Mayfield Village. Then CEO Peter B. Lewis wanted to create a unique workspace that reflected the creative and innovative spirit of the company. To begin bringing his vision to life, he purchased a few pieces of original, contemporary art to display in the new building. He couldn’t have known at the time, but those first few pieces would eventually grow to more than 10,000 contemporary artworks viewed by thousands of employees—and their friends and families—each year. Learn more about Progressive’s art collection.
Designed to inspire
The Progressive Art Collection has become a linchpin of the company culture. It’s so much more than an assemblage of sculptures, paintings, photography, and new media. It’s a backdrop for conversation; a catalyst for curiosity, and inspiration for education.
According to Art Education and Communications Manager Kristin, “Our collection is designed to inspire those who experience it. People with piqued curiosity find that unpacking the meanings in artworks creates a strong parallel to unpacking the issues and conditions of the times in which we live. We want the pieces to spark conversation—even debate—to help our employees better understand the world around them versus just moving through it.”
And Kristin understands this more than most. His role is one which no other corporation has. He leverages the collection around education. He and the Corporate Art team have upheld the mission of the collection which is, in part, to help employees challenge their natural inclination to remain inflexible in the face of an ever-growing need to be open to new ideas and alternative perspectives. And they’ve built up a suite of programs around that mission throughout the years.
Perhaps one of the most meaningful aspects of the teams’ mission is ensuring the art collection reaches all employees, no matter their work location. And they’ve done that in some innovative ways.
Perhaps one of the most meaningful aspects of the teams’ mission is ensuring the art collection reaches all employees, no matter their work location. And they’ve done that in some innovative ways. Learn more about art education at Progressive.
Curated to engage
Regional Art Manager Joshua is one of the biggest advocates for bringing our collection to as many employees as possible. He travels the country, curating and distributing pieces from the collection to hundreds of Progressive offices.
In the early days of his work, Joshua began to see firsthand the impact our collection can have on our workspaces and people. “I curate offices to get people engaged—to give them a way to connect with the art. At times, contemporary art can be confusing or even alienating. We find this happens most often when people don’t have the time or the context they need to work through what artworks are communicating. I want to assist in that context building and ultimately help people get excited about the pieces they’ll be seeing every day. With that in mind, I do my best to make connection points for them. Sometimes that means showing them that the artists who adorn the walls might also have pieces in local museums. That often evokes some hometown pride in these ‘Picassos of our time’,” Joshua explains.
With any of our art pieces, Kristin, Joshua, and their team keep an eye on provocation. In other words, they want those who experience our collection to be provoked to be curious about the world in which they live and to draw insight into diverse experiences that they might not otherwise have. It can help facilitate more rich conversations with one another. The art gives us a place—a safe zone—to talk about and share things that we might not normally talk about at work.
As Joshua explains, “There will be stuff people love or hate but when artwork stirs something in you, it’s important to look at that as an opportunity for self-reflection. In many ways, observing and considering an artwork can serve as an affordable therapy session.”
“I’ve known offices of people who’ve gotten attached to the artworks in their locations over the years, and they get emotional when things get moved,” says Joshua. “But I think that’s a really telling sign of how engaging art can be and how connected people can become through it.”
Experience the collection today
Thanks to the Corporate Art Team’s partnership with Progressive’s Marketing team—and their spirit of innovation—you can experience the Progressive Art Collection anytime you’d like. Text ART to 99354 to get a download link for the Progressive Art App sent straight to your phone. Or download the app now from the Apple App Store. It’s a unique way to immerse yourself in our culture and see what it stirs in you.