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Art for Healing Foundation co-founders Earl Pinchuk, left, and Gary Blair have placed more than 8,500 donated works of art in health-care institutions.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/The Globe and Mail

The donors: Gary Blair and Earl Pinchuk

The gift: Creating the Art for Healing Foundation

The reason: To put artwork in health care centres

A few years ago, Gary Blair and his partner Earl Pinchuk were visiting a sick friend in a Montreal hospital when they began to notice the dreariness of the rooms, corridors and work stations.

The two had been collecting art for years, and briefly ran a gallery, and they decided to do something to liven up the hospital. "We realized that there was an abundance of art produced by artists that never sees the light of day," said Mr. Blair, who works for a family-owned communications company called Image24. "We figured, hell, why not start a not-for-profit that has the mission of creating a humanized environment in the medical field."

That led to the creation of the Art for Healing Foundation, a Montreal-based organization that puts donated art in hospitals and treatment centres. So far the foundation has hung more than 8,500 works in 59 institutions across the country. All pieces are appraised so donors receive a tax receipt and each is accompanied by a writeup about the artist. It's all done with the help of volunteers, including many from galleries across Montreal.

Mr. Pinchuk, who runs the foundation, said the pair has been overwhelmed by the response to the initiative. "I think everybody universally has thought hospitals in general look terrible," he said.

Their sick friend, Yves Larouche, passed away after battling his illness for months. Mr. Blair said the foundation serves as a living memorial to Mr. Larouche.

"To think that we live on, by virtue of any aspect of our life, is something that is important for all of us," Mr. Blair said.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com