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have fun. move forward.

Significant Developments works with groups of people to build trust, claim roles, and exercise agency. With a focus on lived experience and storytelling, our artists facilitate groups to share the narratives of how they arrive in the present and what they imagine for the future. Leaning into the alignments among their stories, a team of community stakeholders and artists build capacity and craft strategy necessary to move forward with sincerity, curiosity, and intention.

The scaffolding for trusting relationships is ongoing work toward clarity in roles and agency, equitable access to information and decision-making, and direct discussion in the formation of agreements – and most importantly, being prepared to create space for joy and vulnerability. Significant Developments centers cultural expression as the primary way we form individual and collective identity and the most powerful tool for forming affinity and focusing collective deliberation toward practical impacts for everyday life.

daniel johnson
principal artist

“Artists always deal with the seemingly impossible: the impossibility of changing a person’s perception, point of view, mindset, ethics. But the horizon line for daniel wasn’t drawn by any of these concerns. It was always drawn by the prospect of him being someone who, years from now, people might greet in the street and say, ‘I remember when you came to our town and the Museum came with you.’”

– Seph Rodney, Compassion, Art, People, and Equity: The Story of the Center for Art and Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art, Summer 2021

“daniel johnson and his team at Significant Developments LLC performed the role of strategic planning consultants but did so in a way that helped JMMF staff recognize that they themselves are artists and culture bearers, and had unique and valuable insights about the community and how to best engage them...[Executive Director Primus] Wheeler noted that ‘[In the past,] We were saving the community from itself. And so, because [daniel] guided our civic engagement process, we’re thinking now that when we come to the table, we could actually be confident that we’re going to work together with the community to get something done.’ 

– PolicyLink, Moving from Engaging to Organizing with Arts and Culture Strategies October 2020

He’d proposed to dig up clay in different areas of Lafayette County, and make coins from it to see how currency flows through markets and how value rises in exchanges among people. It was an admittedly amorphous aim but, turns out, a cool metaphor for the soft, malleable start that was molded and hardened into something more lasting and durable. Community conversations started with the usual arts and culture leaders, then branched out and went deeper and wider, to people working with civil rights, with farming, with the broader local community...“The center of gravity [in the conversations] seemed to be the relationship between land and power,” johnson said. The clay coins, each a piece of someone’s land and the story behind it, became a sort of currency of conversation — a token of appreciation as each contact gave their time and attention.

– Mississippi Today, ‘Land & Power’ summit creates ‘magical’ community connection through social practice art December 29, 2019

“A key population for Significant Developments were staff from the maintenance, environmental services, and security teams who often lived within close proximity of the mall, and were in the best position to reveal the connections between the community and the institution. The artist team conducted interviews, facilitated conversations, and engaged in arts-making activities with staff, which informed a strategic cultural plan to inform future creative placemaking activities in and around the mall, and authorized staff to permanently uphold arts and cultural work. "

communitydevelopment.art, PolicyLink research portal for Art Place America Community Development Investments, 2022

“Joeseph Miller, 10, sitting cross-legged on a blanket inside Core Sample, looked up and took in the bells all around, their patterns, symbols and interaction. ‘I like the decorations on them, and the way they’re set up. When you touch one, it pushes more,’ and a sort of music results.

‘I think these are handcrafted and that kids might’ve done them,’ surmised Malachi Reese Knight, 11.

‘Like everything else in the city, you have to engage and participate in order to be effective,’ observed Dorothy Triplett, who’d wandered by Core Sample for a closer look. She fingered a few bells, savoring their sound. ‘And the more people you have, the more beautiful the music.’”

– Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg students tour Jackson art installation March 20, 2014

“I am fascinated with what it means to figure things out together, and that tends to lead to collaborations and efforts I could never imagine on my own; collaborations which can begin to write our shared stories in ways which are empowering to individuals and not simply feeding institutions and systems which seem larger than our lives. ”

– daniel quoted in The Clarion Ledger, Artist engages Jackson with social artworks October 1, 2017


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