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The donor: Dr. Michael Weinberg

The gift: Creating ArtWorks for Cancer

The reason: To decorate hospital cancer wards with art

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As a prominent plastic surgeon in Toronto, Dr. Michael Weinberg deals with beauty and change every day. He’s also an avid art collector and serves on the board of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

A couple of years ago, Dr. Weinberg was treating patients with skin cancer and performing breast-reconstruction surgeries when he noticed the stark decor of many hospital wards. “The environment was so hostile, unfriendly, unhealing and not transformative in any way. People go there and they feel alienated,” he said.

Dr. Weinberg decided to do something, so he contacted a group of friends and colleagues in the art world. They launched ArtWorks for Cancer, a non-profit organization that takes donated paintings, sculptures and photographs and puts them up in cancer wards. So far, the group has received 600 works and they hope to collect 3,000. They’ve already arranged for several hundred to be hung in hospitals around the Toronto area and Dr. Weinberg hopes to expand the program across Ontario. He’s particular about the types of works that can be used, staying away from anything too abstract and sticking largely to landscapes and still life.

He likes to think of the art as “a weapon against the suffering of cancer” and added that “it’s so highly impactful you can’t imagine.” He recalled seeing one woman in chemotherapy lying quietly on her bed and contemplating one of the pieces on the wall. “If that doesn’t touch you, I’m not sure what can,” he said.

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