For their analysis, Spano and Shen called upon GIS giant Esri to pull up areas with all the markers of high culture: "museums, historic sites, botanic gardens, resident orchestras, art galleries and other cultural assets common to big cities."
By limiting the search to areas with less than 25,000 residents, they dug up hidden gems that tell many sides of the American story, from old desert missions and Confederate strongholds to the genesis of Arlo Guthrie and William Count Basie.
Here's the list (in no particular order):
"To have your horizon shifted in a town of 6,000 by an unheralded gem of a painting or a song belted out from a band shell on a starry summer night, that's special. It reinforces the truth that big cities and grand institutions per se don't produce creative works; individuals do. And being reminded of that is fun."