The art of conservation

Vineyard Conservation Society collaborates with Featherstone Center for the Arts on a new exhibit.


Last year Vineyarders took to the fields, woods, and shorelines in droves in order to alleviate the boredom of isolation and to revel in the bountiful natural beauty of the Island. Many were inspired to share their experiences through art and writing, and through the end of the month, Featherstone will be exhibiting numerous paintings, photos, poems, and essays by Islanders in a show titled “Love It. Protect It. MV.” described as “a community art project to celebrate open space.”

The show is a collaboration between Featherstone and the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS). This will be the first of three collaborative shows to be featured in the spacious Francine Kelly Gallery this summer.

Last spring the VCS launched a social media–based community art project. It invited people to submit visual and written work, to be posted on the nonprofit’s Instagram page. According to their website, the initiative “was created as an opportunity to recognize the importance of nature and as a space to feel gratitude and connection, at a time when there was a significant need for both.”

“The show started as a digital space that we created,” says VCS director of education and youth Samantha Look. “Around this time last year, we started to really reflect on how important all of the access to nature had been through that spring. We were aware of how we all really leaned on that access.”

From the many submissions, curators selected 112 pieces by 74 artists to feature in the in-person exhibit at Featherstone. There’s a lot more than just typical Vineyard landscapes to be found at the gallery. The artwork, which includes paintings, drawings, photos, and a few sculptural pieces, shows off the creativity and individuality of Island artists.

Setting this exhibit apart from a typical gallery show is the inclusion of poetry. A number of Islanders managed to translate their love of the Island into verse, the addition of which encourages the viewer to stroll leisurely, and reflect on both the words and the visuals.

The variety of styles and subject matter is impressive. There’s a lot more on display than simply typical landscapes. When the VCS launched the initiative, it offered a series of prompts, including “Forests,” “Meadows, Fields, and Farms,” and “Shorelines.” All three themes are well represented in the exhibit.

A huge triptych by Leslie Baker provides a beautiful centerpiece in the spacious gallery. With a soft pink sky and layers of green fields, Baker has truly captured the expansive nature of the view from the path to Long Point of ocean, pond, and grassland in her painting titled, “Reaching Out to the Horizon.”

Kay Franks’ photo “Sanctuary” depicts Cedar Tree Neck as a forest populated by twisty trees that appear almost magically alive. Nancy Noble Gardner’s lovely photo “Walkers” features three women strolling on the beach on a foggy day.

Scout Austin has created a colorful encaustic on wooden panel set at Tradewinds Preserve. The wax-and-pigment painting features wonderful pinks and reds to the fields, a vivid blue sky, and a variety of greens, punctuated by long shadows cast by the trees.

Featherstone instructor Lynn Hoeft didn’t have to travel far afield for inspiration. Her watercolor painting “Midsummer Trees at Featherstone” features lovely washes of green and sunlit yellows.

Julie Brand contributed a beautiful impressionistic painting of wildflowers swaying in the breeze with a peek of the ocean in the background.

The show includes the finalists from the VCS’s annual Art of Conservation contest. For the past eight years, the organization has invited high school students from all over the Island to submit artwork based on a theme. This year the VCS opened the contest up to middle schoolers and writers. 

“It’s really wonderful to see how much appreciation our local artists have shown for the Island,” says Featherstone director Ann Smith, “and to see how both artists and writers have expressed so much joy and magic in their work. As a community-focused art center, we are proud to be working with an organization that does so much toward preserving our Island’s beauty.”

In conjunction with the exhibit, Featherstone is hosting a series of events. On Wednesday, June 9, 11 poets read from their work featured in “Love It. Protect It. MV.” on the outdoor stage. On Sunday, June 13, VCS events continued with “The Art of Conservation” student awards. “The Art of Conservation” is an annual art contest that VCS sponsors devoted to nature and conservation. This year’s winners are displayed in the Francine Kelly Gallery during the “Love It. Protect It. MV.” exhibit. This past Wednesday (June 16), Featherstone hosted a panel discussion on nature, advocacy, and art with VCS executive director Brendan O’Neill, Featherstone executive director Ann Smith, Pulitzer prizewinning journalist and author Geraldine Brooks, and artist Cindy Kane. On Wednesday, June 23, the VCS annual meeting will feature guest speaker Emily Molden, executive director of the Nantucket Land Council. The meeting is open to all by preregistration at

“Love It. Protect It. MV.” will hang in the Francine Kelly Gallery at Featherstone from 12 to 4 pm through June 27.