BN9 Reporter Sara Belsole interviews Cottage Artists Violetta Chandler   

BN9 Reporter Sara Belsole interviews Cottage Artists Violetta Chandler


Indian Rocks Beach artist group to be featured in documentary film. Monet and Renoir would be proud. 'Plein Aire Cottage Artists' Mary Rose Holmes, Helen Tilston, and Violetta Chandler take their wooden easels and canvases outside to paint Indian Rocks Beach's historic cottages. (Sara Belsole, staff)

By Sara Belsole, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017, 4:34 PM EDT

An Indian Rocks Beach group of artists known for creating their works outdoors are hoping to share their love of the beach's history and vistas in a new way, as the subject of a documentary film.

  • Plein Aire Cottage Artists started almost 20 years ago
  • Group caught attention of filmmaker Lynn Marvin Dingfelder
  • Documentary hopefully finished next year

You can usually find them set up in small alleys by the beach.

They paint on wooden easels under big white umbrellas that shade them from the sun.

They call themselves the "Plein Aire Cottage Artists."

"'Plein aire' means painting outside, and that was what we are,” Mary Rose Holmes said.

Holmes, Violetta Chandler and Helen Tilston make up the group. They started painting the historic cottages on Indian Rocks Beach almost 20 years ago.

"We loved the charisma, the colors and the fact that they weren’t perfect,” Holmes said.

Painting by Mary Rose Holmes.

Little did the three women know they were about to start a movement. People started buying their paintings straight off their easels, and as their popularity grew, so did the need to preserve the historic cottages.

"I believe art always has and always will bring the beauty all around,” Chandler said. "It is fabulous. We are very proud of the movement we started.”

About a year ago, the women caught the attention of Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Lynn Marvin Dingfelder.

"These women are giving the beach cottages a voice,” Dingfelder said. "So through their art they’re not only encouraging the artwork itself, but preservation. People are now realizing these are historic homes, maybe we should save them.”

The Plein Aire Cottage Artists are now the focus of a documentary called "Save our Cottages: Artists with a Cause!" They hope to inspire a deeper appreciation for the beach’s past and to continue to limit the number of high rises allowed in the city.

"To exist with the condos, develop, do the new, but also keep the old,” Holmes said.

The documentary will hopefully be complete by next year. The production crew is still looking for old photographs or 8mm film footage of Florida beach vacations to help tell the story.

To learn more about the upcoming film or to help fund the film with a donation, visit