Home Feature Following the footsteps of Toller Cranston in SMA

Following the footsteps of Toller Cranston in SMA

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There is no beach in San Miguel de Allende, or even all inclusive. And yet, the small town in the heart of the state of Guanajuato is not far from being the most popular destination in Mexico. This growing popularity year after year may end up putting a real headache for local authorities. Or how to welcome more and more tourists while preserving the charm of this pure jewel of colonial architecture inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


At the end of the Second World War, American veterans took advantage of the “GI Bill” (law signed by the Congress offering the demobilized soldiers the financing of their studies and professional training) to come to study art or Spanish in San Miguel de Allende. Most stayed to enjoy the quality of life in this ancient bastion of the Mexican Revolution lost in the mountains, 3h30 drive from Mexico City.


Who is Toller Cranston?

In the 80s and 90s, many artists followed suit, such as the famous Canadian skater Toller Cranston. A former student of the Montreal School of Fine Arts, the world champion and Olympic medalist retired to San Miguel de Allende in the late 80s to devote himself to his passion for painting. Until his death in 2015, Cranston lived in a former tannery dating back to the 16th century, near Benito Juárez Park, where he painted a large part of his paintings.

After battling depression for nearly two years, in 1992 Cranston auctioned nearly all his possessions in Canada, sold his Cabbagetown home and moved to San Miguel, to pursue his passion for painting.

It was a necessary move, he told the Star in an earlier interview: “I’ll never be taken seriously as an artist, at least in this country, (but) I am absolutely convinced I am one.”

While Cranston was a talented and disciplined painter — Beker said he would get up at 5 a.m. daily to paint — his art had always been underappreciated.

“Skating obviously overshadowed a lot of what he did,” Beker said.

Cranston would go on justify that move, painting more than 70,000 pieces — dwarfing Vincent Van Gough’s 2,500, he said — and selling one at a high of $40,000.

Toller Cranston in 1973 (Photo: Toronto Star)

Toller Cranston in 1973 (Photo: Toronto Star)

He drew often upon his skating experience, saying the two activities came from the “same creative reservoir,” though he would more or less abandon the blades. In an interview with the Star in 2003, Cranston said he had not touched the ice in four years.

And when he did then it was with ill-fitting old boots that had shrunk and were painful to put on.

“I realized I could never skate again because I couldn’t stand the pain,” he said.


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