St. Louis artist Mary Engelbreit is known for her quaint illustrations, often with cheerful slogans. “It’s a pretty cute business I’m in,” she said.
On Monday, she posted a drawing inspired by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson on her Facebook page. “I knew when I posted that that I would catch some flak,” she said. “But no, I wasn’t expecting this.”
Engelbreit said she watched news coverage of Michael Brown’s death. “I was just appalled and heartbroken,” she said. “The thing that drove me to draw that was seeing his mother and her face was devastating. She was trying to get to him while he was lying on the street and of course they couldn’t let her near him. I started crying. And I started drawing.”
Engelbreit said she often creates personal drawings, most of which are never seen. This one, though, she decided to share and posted an image on her Facebook page. The reaction was immediate.
“It came from everywhere; it came from all over the country,” she said. “A lot of support at first because it was my regular fans looking at the page. But then the negative comments started coming, which I expected. But the degree of negativity was shocking.”
Engelbreit posted the image a second time, explaining why she had drawn it. Enough people reported that post to Facebook as offense that it was removed from the site. She reposted it. Since then, Engelbreit said she has heard from a Facebook representative who apologized. Facebook reinstated the post, and said it would not be removed again.
Engelbreit also is selling prints of the drawing, with proceeds from those sales going to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund that was established by Straub’s. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, works at Straub’s. By Friday, “we’ve raised about $15,000 and sold about 300 prints,” Engelbreit said.