Painting for a Cause

Violetta Chandler, Mary Rose Holmes and Helen Tilston are known as the Plein Aire Cottage Artists of Indian Rocks Beach.
Since 1999, the three life-long artists have captured the quaint Florida-style cottages and shell-paved paths along Beach Trail - leading a movement to "Save our Cottages" and fighting to preserve the unique seaside history they represent.

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"Once a Cottage is smashed,
it's gone forever."

- Mary Rose


Accomplishments & Recognitions

2007 - The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation bestowed the State Award to the Artists for preserving a chapter of Florida’s past that is quickly disappearing.

2007 - The Artists, with IRB Action 2000, helped create an annual Preservation Award, which is presented to businesses and cottage owners who preserve their properties in the spirit of maintaining the small town atmosphere of Indian Rocks Beach.

2007 - The City of Florence, Italy and ten world renowned art curators juried and invited Mary Rose, Violetta and Helen to represent the USA at the prestigious Florence Biennale, in what is referred to as the "Olympics of the art world."  All three have a lifetime invitation to showcase their work at the Biennale, Florence, Italy. 

2016 - The National Society of Arts and Letters chose the Plein Aire Cottage Artists as Art Advisors and Jurors for the Winston Scholarship. 


The Old Market House Arts Centre; Co Waterford, Ireland 

Cornell Museum, Del Ray Beach, Florida 

Florida State Cabinet Meeting Room, Tallahassee, Florida 

Leepa Rattner Museum, Tarpon Springs, Florida


Save our Cottages - Artists with a Cause by Emmy Award-Winning team of Lynn Marvin Dingfelder and Larry Wiezycki. 

2019 - Winner People's Choice Award at the Gasparilla Film Festival.

2020 - Winner of Best Florida Documentary at St. Petersburg's Sunscreen Film Festival.

Canvas with a Cause by documentary film maker Roxanne Mannello, WEDU

9/17/20 - Aired on WEDU (PBS)


Jan 2014 - "Plein Aire Cottage Artists Blend Beautifully" - Tampa Bay Newspapers

March 2017 - "The Plein Aire Cottage Artists..." - DuPont Registry Tampa Bay

Nov 2018 - "Their Paintings are More than Art..." - Tampa Bay Times 

July 2020 - "Painting a Line in the Sand" (6 page feature) - Victoria Magazine

Dec 2020 - "Plein Aire Artists help Preserve Historic Charm..."  Tampa Bay Metro Magazine 

Mar 2021 - "Packing your Paints - Travel with an Artist" - Travel Industry Magazine

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Mary Rose Holmes remembers first painting when she was four years old. Even then, she displayed a remarkable skill for drawing, a talent encouraged by her father who was a knowledgeable art lover. A fifth-generation Floridian, Mary Rose earned her fine arts degree from Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, GA.

During her time at college the emphasis and style was certainly modern. Students were encouraged to used bold slashes of colour in a minimal fashion, which Mary Rose did.  Returning home during college break, she would boldly present her modern ideas to her father (a collector of original realistic and impressionistic art) and imply that he should move along with the times.  Her father Algenon Speer, a Fifth generation Floridian, living in a small town in Florida had his own ideas about art. During his work travels back in the 50's he stumbled upon some black artists who sold their paintings for $20 on the roadside - outside the orange groves where they worked.  Those he purchased and loved, still wet and fresh off the easel. The artists would know when he was heading to Fort Piece or Kissimmee and wait for him.  (He secretly wanted his daughter Mary Rose to paint in this style).  Mary Rose's mother favored the European school of art for their home, and so only one of the Highwaymen paintings met her criteria. The Highwaymen collection sat in the attic of a beach home until Mary Rose and her husband Dwight Holmes purchased their present cottage on Indian Rocks Beach.

Today, Mary Rose continues to paint with passion and a devotion to record the beauty of Florida, its landscapes, water and unique beach cottages.

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Born by the ocean in Galway, Ireland, Helen Tilston’s childhood experiences helped create her love and understanding of the ocean. Tilston believes a painter must be part of the land and the life she paints.
She has been described as a painter of light. One remarked, it is as though she paints the sunshine in her canvases.  Sketching, shapes, design and fashion have always been a part of Tilston's discipline and following in her grandmother's footsteps she designed fashion knitwear and one of a kind pieces. June Allard-Berte and Jane Champagne were her art teachers for several years. She studied at Ontario College of Art and Design in all mediums including her favorites encaustic and oil.  
Tilston got her first taste of plein aire painting while at Lyme Regis and was instantly hooked.  Fast forward to meeting Mary Rose Holmes & Violetta Chandler and their decision to be the founders of the three member “Plein Aire Cottage Artists.”  Since 1999 the three artists have been painting, traveling and exhibiting together.

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Violetta Chandler will tell you that painting is in her blood.  As a fifth-generation Russian artist, Violetta grew up smelling the oils and absorbing the beautiful colors as she watched her artistic father create countless works on canvas. She started painting as a child and at the age of 14 graduated from Junior Fine Art School and at 19, with Honors from Repin College of Arts. Violetta's classical art training continued at the Ushinsky State Institute in Odessa, Ukraine, earning a Master’s Degree in Fine Art.  She moved to Sarasota in 1995 and taught painting at the Ringling School of Art, the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo and as an Instructor of Impressionist oil painting and at St. Petersburg Community College.  In the true Impressionist style, Violetta captures light and color, bringing her canvases to life. 
Violetta’s experience and love for plein aire encouraged Mary Rose Holmes & Helen Tilston to take their artistic vision to the streets of Indian Rocks Beach and together they became known as the" Plein Aire Cottage Artists” capturing the beauty and history of the endangered beach cottages.
Violetta currently resides in Sarasota, teaches oil painting classes locally on Indian Rocks Beach, and is accepting commissions.


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