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Sunday December 17 2017
Unique Art & Design Center: La Aurora
Judy Newell

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When you're visiting San Miguel de Allende, it's hard to tear yourself away from its colorful, cobblestone city center even briefly but if you're looking to do a little shopping, particularly for art, antiques or home decor, take a short walk to Fabrica La Aurora.

Fabrica La Aurora is one of San Miguel's most unique destinations, a beautiful art and design center housed in a former turn-of-the century textile factory. Its original façade with twelve stone-carved arches and impressive wrought iron gates opens onto a gracious patio.

Visitors are always surprised to find over forty galleries, studios, shops, and restaurants amid the old machine works and photos of the factory the way that it once was.

San Miguel is, above all, an art haven, where hundreds of creative artists live and work. The first art school in Latin America was founded here, and since it’s founding, San Miguel has been a destination for art students and artists in general.

Many of them have studios or galleries at the Fábrica La Aurora. Its breezy courtyards and whitewashed walls ooze stylishness and good taste.

The concentration of art galleries draws visitors in huge numbers. Locals and tourists in San Miguel enjoy cocktails and browsing during one of the Aurora’s many gallery openings and special events. There is an Art Walk the first Friday of every month from 5 to 8 pm and Open Studios every Thursday evening.

Merry Calderoni, the very first artist to open a studio and gallery here says:
“When I first went to the factory to see about leasing a space seven years ago, the owner Mr. Garay was not really interested in leasing out areas. He wanted to sell it as a huge complex and didn't want to "break it down" into smaller spaces. He gave me a chance and from then on, it has been one new space after another with 40 locales now (and a waiting list).

“I was lucky to be the first working artist and got the incredible foundry space with a working forge, sharpener for large tools, and antique stone floors and walls throughout. It is a wonderful place to work with glass windows down both sides of the 40-foot high ceilings.

“I think people enjoy the fact that the owners were smart enough to leave areas in the original state as they were when it was a working textile factory. The Garay family exhibits the factory’s rich history through photographs that explain the workings of the historical complex, its community involvement, and the lives of the workers. When it closed in 1991, there was a huge economic dip in the town, as over 300 employees had to find new jobs. Now some of them have been re-employed at the Aurora working in new capacities.

“The Garay family has used excellent taste and discriminating choices for the artists and retailers in the facility. Everything is "alta catagoria" or first class. Another great feature is that now, instead of taking my sack lunch, there are three wonderful restaurants to choose from, with a wide variety of choices from sushi to enchiladas and Texas chili.

“Although there are many retail stores in the complex, the Garay's have chosen to make it their main thrust to remain an Art and Design Center not just a shopping center. Therefore, it is now one of the main highlights for visitors and residents of San Miguel and is featured in Frommers and Fodors travel guides and many travel magazines.”

The Generator Gallery, complete with the factory’s original generator, showcases exhibitions of its member artists. One of the first galleries in Fabrica La Aurora, it is owned by artist Cati Demme.

“This is a location unique in all of Mexico,” she said. “It is not a commercial shopping mall, but a center of fine arts. Here you will find local, national and international artists producing a real range of high quality art and décor.”

“San Miguel is unique to Mexico,” Cati continued, “and Fabrica La Aurora is unique to San Miguel.”
The non-artsy can find plenty of other goodies in three shops featuring the unique designs of San Miguel jewelers and a great fine arts bookshop. For clothing, Pineda Covalini Boutique sells gorgeous shawls and accessories that are found in art museum stores worldwide.

Planning to decorate? You’ll find inspiration from the past in the numerous antiques shops, including Cantadora and La Buhardilla, with their superb collection of Mexican colonial “objets d'art”.

Rachael Horn Home, Sisal and Atrium, are among the eight showrooms of some of San Miguel's most inspired interior designers. La Bottega di Casa sells fine textiles and items imported from Italy.

Another popular gallery is that of Jaime Goded, who produces ceramics a bit reminiscent of Picasso. The Fabrica also offers art classes and workshops.

If you're shopped out and hungry, head for the Food Factory with cozy restaurant seating and comfortable sofas under a covered patio. Or pick up a coffee, salad or sandwich at the outdoor Café de la Aurora. The newest dining spot is Barushi – a Japanese restaurant.

Come to Fabrica La Aurora to enjoy the rebirth of this old historical building. Savor a meal, sip a glass of wine on the terrace, take an art class, attend a gallery opening, or simply to wander through one of Mexico's finest collections of art, galleries, design, furniture and more.

Featured in both The New York Times and Travel+Leisure magazine, Fabrica La Aurora is an easy 10-minute walk from the city center on Calzada de la Aurora. It is open from 10am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday 11am to 3pm. The restaurant and wine bar have service until 11pm.

Thousands of visitors from Mexico and beyond come to visit San Miguel de Allende each year, drawn to its beautiful colonial architecture, spectacularly sunny climate, great shopping, spas and activities, and nearby thermal hot springs. San Miguel is home to a thriving cultural environment and artistic community and world-class food and hotels in a charming, small-town setting.

It has long been home to a sizable expatriate community, principally from the United States and Canada. More and more “big city” Mexican families are also seeking vacation and retirement homes in San Miguel de Allende.


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