Small Town Spark: Exhibitions Celebrating Innovation in Rural Towns Uplift the Main Street Movement


June 14, 2023 | Small Town Spark: Exhibitions Celebrating Innovation in America's Rural Towns Uplift the Main Street Movement | By: Alicia Gallo, Senior Manager of Strategic Communications at Main Street America |

Thursday Night Market in historic Downtown Grass Valley, Calif., creates opportunities for local innovators and artists to connect with residents. Courtesy of: Grass Valley Downtown Association.

“Invention can happen anywhere and it’s happening right now in small towns across America. Rural Americans are creating new products, taking risks, meeting challenges together, and seizing upon exciting opportunities that change local life and sometimes reach far beyond.”


This statement welcomes visitors to the website for Spark! Places of Innovation, a traveling exhibition curated by the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. And this summer—as the exhibition begins traveling to small towns in Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan, including four Main Street communities—the stories of local innovators in the technical, social, cultural, and artistic spaces will also include those of the Main Street movement.
In addition to highlighting the ingenuity of residents in each community, the 2023/2024 exhibition also features an interactive, audio-visual sequence for visitors to learn about the Main Street Approach and explore the innovative ways that local leaders across the United States have leveraged the Four Points in their downtowns. The profiles include:
Rawlins DDA/Main Street in Rawlins, Wyoming
Organization: Volunteers are the driving force of the Rawlins DDA/Main Street program. From the launch of the Rainbow Te-ton Entrepreneur Center to installing public arts projects and organizing special events downtown, volunteers make a big impact.
Image courtesy of Rawlins DDA/Main Street.
Zuni Pueblo MainStreet in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico
Promotion: Community, culture, and history come together at Zuni Pueblo MainStreet. The nation’s first Native American Main Street program utilizes annual cultural and ceremonial events to preserve and promote the rich heritage of their community.
Image courtesy of Zuni Pueblo MainStreet.
Main Street DeFuniak Springs in DeFuniak Springs, Florida
Design: Main Street DeFuniak Spring’s colorful street banner program creates a welcoming atmosphere and celebrates local heritage. The annual Black History Month banner program honors the contributions of the community’s African American residents.
Image courtesy of Main Street DeFuniak Springs.
Boyne City Main Street in Boyne City, Michigan
Economic Vitality: Boyne City Main Street supports a diverse mix of local businesses. Regular engagement with business owners connects these individuals with valuable resources, while seasonal shop local and special events bring shoppers downtown.
Image courtesy of Boyne City Main Street.
Through these audio clips, images, stories, and statistics, individuals throughout the country are learning about Main Street America, our network of innovative leaders, and the importance of sustaining a thriving Main Street core in communities.
Check out the Spark! Places of Innovation exhibition in these Main Street America communities:
July 8, 2023-August 19, 2023: Three Rivers DDA/Main Street in Three Rivers, Michigan
December 2, 2023-January 13, 2024: Downtown Nampa in Nampa, Idaho
January 20, 2024-March 3, 2024: Grand Haven Main Street in Grand Haven, Michigan
February 24, 2024-March 30, 2024: Marshall Main Street in Marshall, Illinois