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 Mexico's Art Havens - San Miguel & Guanajuato

Professor Arnie Greenberg

Build it and they will come…Or so the expression goes. Four hours north of Mexico City in the hills above the river valley an art school was established at the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez El Nigromante. That’s quite a mouthful but it is affectionately known as Bellas Artes. Today it is part of the San Miguel Mexican national art institute and offers classes in painting, drawing, sculpture, music dance and languages. Surrounding a lush garden boasting orange trees it also incorporates a courtyard café, souvenir shop, two art galleries and an incomplete mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros. It’s a place to gather when lectures or concerts are offered or a place to learn. It is one of the reasons that so many people flock to San Miguel every year.
Local and expatriate artists show their works in the Parque Benito Juarez very close to the one time sprawling home of  Maximillian the European ruler of Mexico sent by Napoleon 111 of France.

Close by there is often a weekend of arts and crafts sales and connected to the food market is the long narrow pedestrian walkway through the stalls of local craftsmen offering ceramics , souvenirs, silver and folk art. The crafts are a delight, especially the silver and work with stones. The mundane and the surprising treasures were almost irresistible.

Courtyard of Bellas Artes

A few of the artists in the park caught my eye. The first were the Mendelshons, father and son Noah (Americans). Also worth looking for is Mark Vranesh who’s water colors were superb. Add the spectacular cat paintings of Mexican painter A Mendoza, see below…I couldn’t resist.

At a special crafts show I saw ornate trays, silver jewel boxes, hand knitted children’s clothing, mosaics, necklaces and paintings. Prices are much lower than in North America.

Local art - click to enlarge
Local art

One night we went to a vernisage for a photographer who displayed his work showing many of the crafts people in their studio. Even the weekly newspaper, “Informacion”, listed art sales, shows and open houses.

Luckily for us, we would go into town along Adama Street. It was there that we visited the home and studio of an exceptionally talented lady by the name of Terry Ann Tomlinson, originally from New York State. Not only is her paper craft very unique but her home is a special space and she is a welcoming interesting artist.

Hers is an attempt to capture the spiritual reality that unites all forms of life. Her work is done in a modern light filled setting. You know you are in a different space when you enter her garden patio with a waterfall backed by a fireplace…hot and cold. It is through a very nondescript door that one enters this enormous, modern structure filled with art including sculptures and paper worked as I’ve never seen it done before.

Facing you is a round kitchen counter built to nourish the body as art nourishes the soul. And there in her self-designed space is Terry Ann herself ready to greet you and discuss her work

Her paper visions are unique, possibly because her background as a chemist affords an understanding of chemicals that can be mixed with the self made paper.

 “When working with paper”, she said, “I am connected with nature in a direct way.”

Papyrus as bamboo 
Entry pond and greenery - click to enlarge
Entry pond and greenery 
Living room & fireplace - click to enlarge
Living room & fireplace
The Artist - click to enlarge
The Artist  

If you are lucky enough to be in San Miguel, you must visit her home on Adama at No. 29.  It was deigned, I am told with the aid of Alan Wilkenson. It is exciting to know that such a space exists behind a typical Colonial façade.

You can learn more about her at

There are days when she has an open house. While you are examining her work or learning about her aims, take time to walk around the house. It’s a wonderful use of space with a heavy leaning towards nature.

Not far from San Miguel by car or bus is the city of Guanajuato. Here too there is a legacy of painting as well as literature.

This city holds dearly the work of Cervantes and his epic novel Don Quixote. The performance of Cervantes comic plays, known as Cervantinos became the seed for the most important cultural event of Latin America started in 1772. There is a Quixote Museum and exhibition with pictures of the main character by many famous artists including Dali, Jose Luis Cuevas and a scene by Picasso.

Quixote, Sancho Panza, Rosinante and Dulcinea (puppets) - click to enlarge
Quixote, Sancho Panza, Rosinante and Dulcinea (puppets)

Inaugurated in 1987, it houses a collection of paintings, drawings, tapestries, coins, sculpture and porcelain. I couldn’t resist the papier mache sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho.

It’s a wonderful look at the character, the artist and the reverence in Mexico of his work. More information is on

Guanajuato, founded in 1570, is rightfully called “The Jewel of the Americas”. SINCE 1988 it has become a World heritage Site by UNESCO. At one time it was the capital of Mexico.

Here too you will find the Diego Rivera Museum House located in a large 18th century neo classical home. This was Rivera’s birthplace and his crib and the family’s furniture is on display. So too are paintings from different stages of the artist’s career including his years in Paris. There is a replica of one of his murals as well as a self portrait that is particularly moving. I also enjoyed the picture done in France by a lady he was involved with for a while named Morevna Vorobiev. (See my book “Double Deception” where she is one of the main characters).

I agree with the art critic who wrote, in 1932, “To see the paintings of Diego Rivera, is to see Mexico. Of course his bold murals can best be seen in Mexico City at the university. They celebrate the life and customs of common Mexican people.

Diego’s birthplace                                           

Art is a major theme in this corner of Mexico. It might take a few visits to see it all and with new art created daily you can satisfy that need over and over again,

For more information see


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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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