Nature and art have always been a potent team, with the natural world providing inspiration to artists who return the favor by celebrating what they see. This month, the Vineyard Conservation Society and Featherstone Center for the Arts are exploring this relationship with a community art show titled Love It. Protect It. MV., open daily through June 27.

VCS executive director Brendan O’Neill sees artists as allies in his work of conserving the Island environment, he told an audience of about 40 people during a panel discussion under the trees at Featherstone Wednesday night.

“Nature clearly has the power to open the door to creative expression, and that expression in turn can draw in more people... and enlist more lovers of nature,” he said. “Building that critical mass of support can change things ... so that it results in more preservation of land.”

Panelists Cindy Kane and Geraldine Brooks. — Ray Ewing

Moderated by Featherstone executive director Ann Smith, the panel of Islanders also included visual artist Cindy Kane and Pulitzer-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks. Audience members sat on lawn chairs or towels on the grass, while airplanes and the occasional hunting osprey were heard overhead.

Ms. Brooks, a former VCS board member, recalled her earlier work as an environmental reporter before she turned to fiction.

“I just loved it,” she said. “I felt put in my place by nature and that is the place where nature is vast and we are small. But... in our smallness, we are also an unbelievably destructive species.”

The environmental devastation wrought by humankind has been a central theme in Ms. Kane’s work, such as her deeply moving installation Empty Skies. Displayed in 2016 at the old Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven, before it was renovated to become the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the work contained two dozen child-sized hospital cots, with the pillow of each holding the image of an extinct bird’s head.

Open Skes MVY by Lily Keller. — Ray Ewing

“The feeling was that our world is unwell, that the environment is unwell,” said Ms. Kane, whose work also explores the plight of whales, the work of war correspondents and other complex environmental and social themes.

“I grew up believing that activism was a great cause,” said Ms. Kane, a child of the Vietnam war era who grew up around Washington, D.C., the site of frequent protests over the war and civil rights.

“Those were our champions and local heroes,” Ms. Kane said of the demonstrators pressing for change.

Activism through art has its pitfalls, Ms. Kane told the Featherstone audience.

“It’s easy to be didactic when you come at a project in this way, with an intentional attitude,” she said. “It’s a risk, and I struggle with that.”

Depicting whales without lapsing into clichés was another challenge, Ms. Kane said.

“The way I approach whales in my paintings over the last year is to think about their eyes and the texture of their skin,” she said. “In this way, I think that they’re less corny — because there is something kind of corny about the shape of a whale.”

Art show continues through June 27. — Ray Ewing

The panelists also talked about ways that artists — and others — can avoid falling into despair over the Earth’s predicaments.

“We can’t all lead a global movement, but we can all do the thing that falls under your hand to do,” Ms. Brooks said, referring with pride to the student-led campaign to ban single-use plastic water bottle sales on the Vineyard.

“Look for the thing you can do,” she said.

Ms. Kane also suggested planting a garden.

“Having a backyard garden has been the great joy and surprise of my life,” she said. “It just takes that agitation away from any mood.”

Nature and art have always been partners on the Featherstone campus, which abuts extensive land bank property and trails and is also home to the Garden Gate preschool, Ms. Smith said.

“This is their campus and their curriculum is outdoors,” she said.

Engaging children in nature, so they’ll grow up to support the environment, came up again during the question and answer period following the panel talk.

“Get ’em out there, get ’em early,” Ms. Brooks said.

With 112 artworks by 74 Islanders, along with more than a dozen works by middle school and high school artists, Love It. Protect It. MV. expands on an online art project the Vineyard Conservation Society mounted last year.

The show is open from noon to 4 p.m. daily in the Francine Kelly Gallery at Featherstone. More information is available at and