At one time, the Bellas Artes was part of a magnificent complex and the buildings and gardens went on for blocks. Originally it was a convent created by the donation of the eldest daughter of the Canal family back in 1754. It has seen major changes over the years from a convent, military outpost, a private art school and currently, a government run cultural center, "El Nigromante", for the arts. Today it is host to lectures, art exhibits and many concerts. The interior courtyard is exceptionally large, especially for a convent in Mexico. Thanks to the numerous philanthropic endeavours in town, this garden has been beautifully restored.
In January of 1948, Life magazine ran an article with the headline, "GI Paradise: Veterans go to Mexico to study art, live cheaply and have a good time." Back then, apartments rented for $10 a month, maids were $8 a month, rum was 65 cents a quart & cigarettes 10 cents a pack. Due to this article, 6,000 applied to the Bellas Artes. The town's population at the time was only 10,000! 100 applications were accepted making the total enrollment 140.
After the revolution of 1910 and the decline of the silver mining, San Miguel was dangerously close to becoming a ghost town. It was the arts that has brought San Miguel back to life and it has prospered ever since.
One of the beautiful, expansive portales within the Bellas Artes.
In its early days as an art school, the students and young artists painted many murals on the buildings walls. This mural, The Vampire Bat, by Pedro Martinez depicts the Chupacabras. OK, what's a chupacabras? It means "goatsucker" and it attacks livestock and makes incisions into its victim's bodies like a vampire. It's like the "Lock Ness" monster in Scotland and "Sasquatch" in North America.