The name “Mary Engelbreit” may be familiar to some of you. Her artwork is probably familiar to even more of you. Engelbreit is an artist who is known for her adorable illustrations often accompanied by sugar-sweet sayings.
Here are a few examples:
At this point, a lot of you are probably going “Ohhhhhh, THAT LADY.” Yes, exactly, that lady.
So Engelbreit is known for her soft, sweet, cuddly art. But in the wake of the Ferguson tragedy (Ferguson happens to be the artist’s hometown), the artist stepped up and created a piece that has been polarizing as her other work is apolitical. She recently posted the following image on her Facebook page.
Engelbreit is donating all proceeds from this print (priced at $49.95) to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund, an institution that supports the family of the young Missouri man who was gunned down by the police two weeks ago. Engelbreit explained in her Facebook post that she illustrated this piece because “[T]hese events unfolding now in my hometown and across the country, shining a light on the ugly racism that still runs rampant in our country, made me think that maybe this drawing could help in some small way,”
My response was “HELLS to the YES, Mary Engelbreit.” I mean, I kind of thought this was going to be everyone’s response to this piece. Who’s not going to agree with this sentiment?
Apparently a not-insubstantial segment of Engelbreit’s fanbase, that’s who. The deal is, a lot of the feedback on this piece was supportive, but a sizable portion of the commenters were ANGRY. As Artnet put it, these Facebook followers “vented racist conspiracy theories, accused Engelbreit of ignoring the plight of law enforcement, and challenged her to ‘please draw a card that also shows stealing and intimidating store clerks.'”
The WTF-ery doesn’t stop there. Facebook actually removed Engelbreit’s original post (with the image) deeming it “offensive.” I’m so confused my head just spun around a bunch of times like the little girl in The Exorcist. Come again, Facebook, how is advocation for an unarmed citizen’s right to NOT be murdered by law enforcement “offensive” content?
Engelbreit stands by her piece, which she claims is a statement on “the ugly hard truth of racial profiling,” and had an elegant and eloquent response ready for her detractors.
“I also thought about disabling the comments today and just let those that wanted to buy the print do so. But then I thought, Well, I posted it—I should see this through to the bitter end. However, today, if anyone uses words like “thug” or “animal” or any other derogatory words to describe their fellow human beings, their comment will be deleted. That’s not free speech, that’s hate speech, and you can go pedal your hatred and bigotry on someone else’s Facebook page.
We can only hope that all the people who said that they were going to unfollow me have done so, and maybe today we can have a more civilized stream of comments.”
An artist has to create what she believes the world needs and she has to stand by her creations. With this recent print, Engelbreit has proved herself to be a true artist, and the heart and grit she has demonstrated throughout this trying time is standing-ovation worthy.