Patron of the Arts

Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed art is a jealous mistress, but clearly he never worked for this insurance company. In keeping with its corporate vision of an office environment that people actually want to return to every morning, Progressive has developed a number of incentives over the years to tempt would-be employees.

The insurance giant already has everything from quiet rooms (with recliners and pillows) to on-site yoga practice. Now, it's adding artistic nurturing to the list.

Progressive — a company known for its impressive private art collection — began showing employee artwork in a biennial exhibit at its Mayfield Village corporate headquarters in 1996. This year, the company is honoring entrants by assembling an exhibit of the winning pieces.

In years past, the art hung solely at the corporate headquarters. This time around, with "best in show" and honorable-mention awards being handed out, Progressive felt it was time to let everyone in the company see what all the fuss was about. The show will travel to call centers around the nation, including Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Austin, Texas.

"Our former art curator, Toby Lewis, introduced the employee art show as a way to encourage artistic expression among our people," says Progressive's art curator, Scott Westover. "This year marks the first time [the show] will be traveling across the country."

It takes a little more than idle doodling to compete in this contest. The art is judged by the Cleveland Museum of Art's curator of contemporary art and the director of SPACES gallery. This year, the duo had to choose just 25 pieces from the 135 entries.

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