Not far from the beautiful garden at the center of San Miguel de Allende, Instituto Allende is a wellspring of artistic—and amorous—energy that has fueled the city since its 20th-century revival. The picturesque art academy has deep roots in the city’s decadent past, and ushers in its future as the stage for countless love stories.
A celebration of education and artistry
Instituto Allende’s spire has watched over San Miguel since Spanish colonial times. The building was constructed by the wealthy Canal family in the 1730s. It was a classic hacienda, a lavish country retreat. An opulent skyline of Baroque and neoclassical structures quickly rose around it, as the bustling silver trade transformed San Miguel into a cultural center. In 1775, an order of Catholic nuns bought the estate and turned it into a convent. The building eventually fell into ruin when the city hit hard economic times in the early 20th century.
A new wave of American artists traveled to San Miguel de Allende on the G.I. Bill to attend U.S.-accredited art schools.
Along came Peruvian artist Felipe Cossío del Pomar, who founded an art school in the abandoned structure. Using their education grants after the end of World War II, a new wave of American artists traveled to San Miguel de Allende on the G.I. Bill to attend U.S.–accredited art schools. Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, a revered contemporary of Diego Rivera, was a lecturer here and graced several walls with colorful paintings. The school was reborn as Instituto Allende in 1950, attracting Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and other 20th–century luminaries.
Today, Instituto Allende hosts hundreds of weddings each year. The building’s grounds have an impeccable view of San Miguel’s iconic neo-baroque cathedral La Parroquia.
The nuns who once roamed these halls are said to have built a secret tunnel between Instituto Allende and the church. We keep our eyes open for secret passageways as we explore the palatial structure’s shops and galleries, which are surrounded by smaller studios where classes take place.
We wander into an art space, where an attendant takes us on a tour through the kaleidoscopic color worlds of a contemporary painter on display. When we ask about the weddings at the Instituto, he simply replies, “Yeah, this is the place to do it!” Indeed, Instituto Allende sits at the intersection of creative and romantic passion that fuels the art academy—and all of San Miguel.