Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



The Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival returns for its 35th year

Posted 9/17/2010 11:43:00 AM

Though the rooms of Atalaya have not been lived in for decades, they bustle with new life and energy for three days every September as the beautiful, Moorish-style castle fills with more than 100 artists and their work during the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival.
Watch a video about Atalaya and what the Arts & Crafts Festival is all about!

The Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival, now in its 35th year, is one of the most anticipated arts festivals in the country. The intense jurying process ensures the high quality of the art on display. A wide variety of work will be exhibited, including oil and watercolor paintings, pottery, woodworking, handmade jewelry and more, at the castle on the grounds of Huntington Beach State Park.

Bill and Mary-Anne Collins will be returning to the Atalaya Festival this year with their unique and whimsical sculptures and are looking forward to the chance to share their work with the appreciative crowd the festival attracts. The Collins’ say their artwork is the perfect outlet for their sense of humor, and their brightly colored animals and fanciful fish are sure to make the art-lovers at Atalaya smile.

“Atalaya has a great response from the community,” Mary-Anne Collins said. “It is well juried with a great variety of art, truly something for everyone … the people who run it treat the artists so well and we really appreciate that.”

Artistic team Cat Wondergem and Rick Steingress agree. “We love the crowds that Atalaya draws out … we also enjoy getting to commune with the caliber of artist that … the staff recruits that weekend.” The castle itself also is a draw for Wondergem and Steingress. “The location of the show is both beautiful and historic. The weather at the end of September makes it an idyllic time of year to be in the area.”

Several interesting and unexpected art forms will be on display at the festival, and Wondergrem and Steingress’ work is a perfect example of such. The pair work in a medium called Gyotaku, which is the art of Japanese fish printing. Gyotaku developed in Japan in a time before photography as a way of documenting different species of fish. Using oil-based ink, the artists capture the imprint of a fish on handmade paper before embellishing the image with acrylic paint.

Many of the craftspeople at the festival take utilitarian items and elevate them to objects of beauty. Artisan Marlow Gates is a broom maker. His sturdy brooms are strong enough to stand up to real-life use, but they are so elegantly made that you will more likely want to hang them on your wall than use them to collect dust bunnies. Similarly, Warren Glover of Bubba Knives creates beautiful embellished hunting knives that are guaranteed for life if properly used and cared for.

Atalaya might look like an ancient castle, but Archer and Anna Huntington built it as a winter home in the 1930s. The couple were philanthropists from New York who, appropriately, shared a passion for the arts.

Anna Huntington was already a successful sculptor by the time she met her husband. Known for her monumental sculpture and her vivid depictions of animals, she was making a salary of $50,000 by the turn of the 20th century – a shockingly high salary for a female artist of that time. Over the course of her lifetime she produced about 500 pieces of sculpture that are now on display throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Most of us think of a second home as a place to go and relax, but for the Huntingtons, Atalaya was a place where they could find the peace and serenity to do the work they loved.

Anna Huntington had two art studios in the home, one indoor and one outdoors. When weather was nice, she could work outside where the light was best; when the weather was inclement, she could roll her large-scale statues inside to the indoor studio on specially built, wheeled platforms. She loved to work from live models and often brought animals to the property so that she could study their form and musculature. The pens just inside the gate, in fact, were used to hold bears.

But Anna Huntington wasn’t the only one with an appreciation for art. Archer Huntington was a translator and art scholar. He built Atalaya apparently without ever committing anything to paper (There are no known blueprints or plans for the castle.)

Archer Huntington had spent a lot of time in Spain and Mexico, studying Hispanic Culture. The influence of his travels can be felt in the rich, Moorish architectural details at Atalaya.

The layout of the building, a ring of rooms around an interior courtyard, is typical of the Moorish design. The simplicity of the home might be surprising to guests expecting a wealthy couple like the Huntingtons to have a lavish house, but the austerity of the castle also is in keeping with Moorish architecture. The castles that inspired Archer Huntington were built for fortification and safety, not luxury.

On the other hand, on a visit to the castle, one of their descendents posited a different theory on the rugged design, said Elizabeth Moses, an interpretive guide at the park. “He said, ‘Uncle Archer wanted a house he could clean out with a hose.’” Apparently growing up in a house his mother had overstuffed with antiques might have influenced him even more than the Spanish castles that he adored.

Other notable Moorish elements of the design include the lovely, ornate gridiron work on the windows (designed by Anna Huntington) and the purposefully oozing mortar between the bricks which came to be known to the construction crew as the “Huntington Squeeze.”

Given the Huntingtons involvement in the arts, Atalaya is the perfect backdrop for this renowned arts festival. “Anna would love the place being used for this purpose,” Moses said. “The festival contributes to [the Huntingtons’] legacy.”

While you are visiting the arts and crafts festival, consider spending some time on the grounds of Huntington Beach State Park or at nearby Brookgreen Gardens. Admission to park and its miles of coastal hiking trails, fishing and 2500-plus acres of protected wildlife is free during the festival. Brookgreen Gardens, also created by the Huntingtons, provides a wonderful opportunity to see some of Anna Huntington’s sculpture in a lush, natural setting.

The 35th Annual Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival will take place on September 24-26 at Huntington Beach State Park near Murrells Inlet. The festival will be open on Friday from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily festival admission is $6 for adults and a multi-day pass is available for $10. Chidren 15 and younger are admitted for free.

For more information on the festival, participating artists and a coupon for $1 off admission visit

Watch a video of about the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival