Odds are you had a Mary Engelbreit calendar or children’s book she illustrated at some point in your life. Her style is sweet, homey, and inoffensive. You’d think if anyone was keeping her head down and going about her kitschy business in the Age of Trump it would be the sweet old lady who your mom loves to put on her wall.
You would be wrong.
On Instagram, Engelbreit has been incredibly vocal in her opposition to various Trump policies such as family separation at the southern border and the concentration camps we currently use. Among art and family pictures, she drops a lot of political commentary with no apologies. This leads to a lot of backlash from Trump supporters, something she generally meets full-on in response.
Another common comment was that Engelbreit clearly cares more about "illegals" than American veterans and children who are suffering. Insisting that nothing could or should be done about the human rights offenses we as a nation are perpetrating until we fix all other problems is a favorite misdirection tactic used by the right. Engelbreit has choice words for them as well. She told one commenter:
You mean “our” people? That was the same question the hosts on Fox asked——“why do you even care? These aren’t our kids!” Everybody responding here today cares about and works towards helping with all the other problems we have in the US. Mainly by voting Democratic. God knows the GOP is not interested in the homeless or veterans. However, today we are discussing the trump concentration camps. The only solution seems to be to vote trump and most of the republicans out, since even people who want to volunteer at the camps, including doctors, and companies who’ve offered help have been turned away by trumps orders. My effort at activism is to use my IG page to keep the subject front and center and giving people the names of groups that they can donate to, who are trying to help. What are you doing?
Sometimes she uses her own artwork to make the point, recasting her Americana images as condemnations of cruelty such as this one.
Her posts cover a range of topics, including gun violence and access to abortion. Engelbreit's stances are unapologetically liberal, and she has no qualms about telling angry visitors that she doesn't require their business to survive if they are going to support racist and harmful causes. Such as this exchange about Trump.
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Don't get me wrong, the majority of Engelbreit's page is a typical famous artist's one. Most of her posts are her own work or photos of her grandchildren. Since at least 2016, though, she has also used her platform to be actively heard disagreeing with some of the more awful parts of American society. She uses her platform to laud things like diversity and the separation of church and state while denouncing bigotry and institutional cruelty. At a time when many of us have 24-hour access to our heroes and faves, many of of them turn our to be disappointing personally (for instance, who knew the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kristy Swanson, was a screaming racist?!) It's refreshing to see the wholesomeness of Engelbreit's work reflected in her dedication to bettering the lot of all people.
She gets a lot of flack about it, but she also gets a lot of support. As Angela Davis once said, "In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist." Clearly, Engelbreit has taken that sentiment to heart, and we'd probably be a lot better off as a people if more of us with followings like hers made their opposition to the worst of systemic problems known. Just because you like art for fairy tales and calendars they sell at the mall doesn't mean you can't resist.
You can follow Mary Engelbreit on Instagram.