Returning to Hero’s Journey™ Art

Today marks one year since the sculpture, Return, made its mark on the city of Winston-Salem, N.C. Return, along with two other sculptures, is a collaborative expression that raises awareness for the importance of clinical trial participation, and honors the participants who have been a vital part of medical advancement. Eli Lilly and Company and artist, John Magnan, designed and built three crowd-sourced sculptures honoring the clinical trial community. The two other sculptures are in Austin, Texas, and Indianapolis, Indiana.

Last year, over 400 members of our community, including dignitaries, healthcare professionals, and clinical trial participants and their families, came together for the unveiling of the sculpture.  While the unveiling was one night in history, the impact of Return and Hero’s Journey™ Art has lived on and echoed continuously throughout our community.

Since November 2017, the sculpture has been exposed to people who attended over 225 events.  This means that over 106,000 people who may or may not have been aware of clinical research and its impact were exposed to clinical research through the sculpture.

The Winston-Salem community is known for its local artists, in many forms — from the NC School of the Arts to the Reynolda House to the weekly local art tours. The bricks from the sculpture have been made into art for offices, featured on local news, and served as conversation pieces in our community. In fact, over 70 members of our community contributed bricks to the sculpture. Whether a person is visiting Winston-Salem or attending one of the many community events at The Benton Convention Center, the sculpture always has someone viewing, touching or staring in awe of the art piece.

The art piece serves as a constant reminder of how clinical research impacts us all and ignites gratitude for clinical trial participants. During the unveiling, many were struck by the vastness of the sculpture but for some, this was a moment in time where they were able to reflect on the impact of clinical research. A particular story that stands out is one of an attendee who shared sentiments of tears and hope not for herself but for her friend who was seeking healing through clinical trials. Seeing their co-designed brick in the sculpture was a reminder of hope for her friend. This magnitude of gratitude touches a deeper emotion and sparks motivation to continue the journey, whether for yourself or with someone else.

For us, Return is not just a piece of art but a continuous reminder that clinical trial awareness can be expressed in many ways with many voices. That research can touch many lives. The key is finding the connection point that sparks a light in one’s understanding and ignites advocacy for clinical trial participation.


The mark Hero’s Journey ™ is used under license from the Joseph Campbell Foundation.