INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. - You might see them along Gulf Boulevard armed with palettes of bright colors and brushes, literally painting the town of Indian Rocks Beach.
"People love it when they walk down the street and see them out painting. Everybody is curious about them," says Mayor Cookie Kennedy.
They’re curious about what they’re painting. They’re wearing hats and flowing dresses, standing in front of wooden easels, busily painting pictures of beach cottages across the street. They are the Plein Aire Cottage Artists. Mary Rose Homes and Helen Tilston are painting on this day. The third member, Violeta Chandler, wasn’t able to join them today, but is here for most of their endeavors.
They started 20 years ago when it looked like the charming, old cottages would be replaced by condos.
"We had no idea that we could really stop the progress of the condos," says Holmes. Back then they thought their paintings would help people remember the cottages lost to development, but 20 years and hundreds of paintings later, many of the cottages are still here and the Cottage Artists are still painting them.
"People think we have saved the cottages," says Holmes. "We haven’t. The people of Indian Rocks Beach have saved the cottages. "
City leaders took notice and property owners became interested in preservation awards. They’ve produced a Cottage Artists calendar every year since 2007 with proceeds benefiting charitable organizations. There are also two award-winning documentaries on the Cottage Artists.
"Maybe it validates that we’re not crazy after all for spending the last 20 years painting these cottages," laughed Tilston.
Nobody knows what might have happened to the cottages without their palettes and brushes, but many here know their story after two decades of painting.
"They’re our Hollywood," commented Mayor Kennedy. "Their brand, for lack of a better word, is just an awesome part of the fabric of our community."
With no end in sight, they bring color to the cottages of Indian Rocks Beach.
LINK: Learn more about the artists on Facebook.