October 2023

Art graduate creating opportunities for western artists

Growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, Megan Wimberley has had a long love for horses and the western world. She also has strong memories of watching her mom draw horses, and she’d emulate that herself with models from horse magazines.

So it should be no surprise that Megan has followed that love into her own career as a western artist and is making a name for herself with her unique style of presenting the American west. She was recently featured in a national invitational exhibition called Cowgirl Up! at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Ariz., and she was part of the nationwide touring show Yosemite Renaissance, also displayed in the Yosemite Museum. She also has work displayed in Oklahoma City’s Wildfire Gallery at the Paseo.

Wimberley with cactus painting
Megan with her large cactus painting.

When she arrived at Wayland, she declared a double major in art and religion, sensing a call to serve the Lord but unsure how to marry her two passions. Thinking she might use art as a missionary, she now looks back and realizes she just wanted to help people and be a blessing. Her current projects fulfill that calling well. She earned her bachelor’s degree at WBU in 2009 and went on to earn a master’s degree in art education at Boston University, much at the recommendation of her Wayland art professor and mentor Dr. Candace Keller.

One goal is focusing on her own artwork, continuing to develop her own unique style of contemporary western and wildlife art.

“I was doing some shows and partnering with a friend who was a jewelry maker and had a really unique flair and style to her house. It made me realize that I don’t have to do tight, realistic pencil drawings only, but can play also play with style within the western genre,” explained Megan. “So over the years I’ve been developing this really colorful, bold style that was really just me experimenting, starting with soft pastels, then switching to acrylics. Being an artist is all about the journey, and you can see how that journey and my early experimental works influenced my style over the years.”

Overcoming setbacks

Megan was just emerging into her own artwork when an illness struck her and put painting on the

Wimberley portrait on horse
Portrait by Kim Robbins

back burner. She eventually was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, but with a great doctor’s care and treatment, she’s in total remission now and able to get back to her passion. But it did cost some time, and she’s in the process of rebuilding those connections in the art world.

Like most artists, Megan is talented enough to portray many subjects, but she focuses on western art because of the personal connection that she believes shines through in her work.

“Western art can be landscapes, wildlife, scenes of cowboys and cowgirls or indigenous peoples. In my mind, it is anything dealing with the American west narrative, which continues today. The styles are getting more inclusive and the genre is growing a lot,’ she says. “You can paint anything of course, but if you want to brand yourself as an artist and generate collectors, people need to know what to expect from you and buy in to your story and your passion and your connection to your subjects.”

A deep appreciation for horses and wildlife in general shapes her work, and Megan said she often writes a story in her mind while painting subjects like bison that bring it more to life. One painting of a large, intricate cactus with blooms followed her health struggles and she resonated with the imagery.

“As I am painting I am thinking about what it must feel like for flowers to bloom, the power and determination that goes into it. That really resonated with me where I was in life, so I related that to my story, and it’s called The Difficult and Glorious Work of Blooming,” she noted.

Megan displays her work and her story on her website, which features a store of both original acrylic art pieces as well as limited edition fine art giclee reproductions that can be customized and are all hand-signed and numbered. She also does commissioned work, both in her western genre and outside, such as some dog portraits she has completed for customers. Megan also offers art lessons for individuals or groups and hosts paint parties in Tulsa, where she now resides.

Promoting women in art

Around 2018, Megan said she had the idea to form an association of women in western art that was unique in its mission. When visiting a western art show, she noted that among all the beautiful works, only 9 of the 100 featured artists were women. A few years later, it had not improved much.

In September 2021, she officially founded Cowgirl Artists of America and began opening for memberships in May 2022. The group already has 300 artists as members and is growing beyond

Bathed in Starlight
Bathed in Starlight

her expectations. More importantly, it’s meeting the four core beliefs of community, education, collaboration and promotion at the same time. The group has a show set for August 2024 at the A. R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art in Trinidad, Colo., to spotlight female artists and makers and celebrate the nuanced contributions of women in the west.

“CGA helps women grow their career in a positive supportive community. Through education women learn to promote and grow their own business, while community provides the opportunity to share and receive wisdom from the group,” Megan explained. “CGA works to provide meaningful opportunities in respected venues like the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art. These types of opportunities can really bolster an artist's career. Collaboration is just across the board in everything we do. I really believe the way we make the biggest impact in our community is to be friends with one another and help one another.”

Creating opportunities

For Megan, Cowgirl Artists of America is all about increasing opportunities and recognition for female Western artists, and with shows like Women’s Work, CGA is doing that and more.

“In Western art, we often see paintings and sculptures of cowboys and Indigenous warriors, but we don’t often see women. When we do, they are often portrayed only in stereotypical roles or treated as beautiful objects. This doesn’t fully celebrate women’s presence, contributions, and work in the west.”

“When I look at these shows, I think, ‘Where are the women I grew up with?’ I have a grandmother

Wimberley painting At Ease
Megan Wimberley's At Ease

who trained a mustang at 86 years old. Where is she in this show? My mom is a really good horse trainer. Where is she in this show? Where are the women I grew up with that are out there roping just like the men do?” Megan said. “I think people get an inaccurate view of the west. We want to introduce them to women’s contributions as well.

“It’s also important for us to include Indigenous artists. While Indigenous artists often don’t see themselves as ‘western artists,’ their stories are still being told in western art, and their stories are part of the history of the American West. We want to ensure we are providing a platform for Indigenous women to share their own stories and not have someone else telling their stories for them.”

Most importantly, she loves the ability to help women grow their business as artists that are often focused on sharing their talents and not as strong in the business aspects such as having contracts, working with galleries, using social media and other pieces of the more complex side of being an artist. Ultimately, though, she sees it as a way to serve others, a part of her connected deeply through her faith, and to serve the art community she loves.

“Art is a blessing to everybody. When an artist sells their work, it is a blessing to them to use this talent. They are portraying a unique lifestyle, and that’s a blessing to those women out there doing the work as well,” she noted. “When we try to sell art, it is not about solving a world problem like most products but in giving this beauty to people. There are artists who are fantastic and talented but don’t know how to run their business or promote themselves. We want to help them build their careers.”

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Megan has graciously offered to donate a portion of her sales on original artwork and commissions through the end of October back to Wayland to support the art program. Visit her website to shop there and mention WAYLAND to spur the donation.


Steel guitarist seeing doors open in music career

If you find yourself in a Larry Fleet concert in the next few months, chances are good that you’ll also be enjoying the talents of a fellow Wayland graduate. Jonathan Jimmerson, who earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 2008 in Plainview, is backing up the talented country crooner as a utility musician, specializing in the steel guitar.

Jimmerson on steel
Jonathan plays pedal steel in concert

But the journey to that Ryman Auditorium stage and all points thereafter was long and winding. And Jonathan can only attribute the experiences he’s enjoying now to one thing.

“God’s just been good to me, that’s really all it is. I don’t have anything beyond that,” says Jonathan.

But his success so far in the music industry can also be attributed to lots of hard work and connections that helped him along the way.

The beginning notes

Jonathan considers himself a late bloomer, not really picking up a musical instrument until his teen years. Raised in Albuquerque and home schooled until high school, he was admittedly obsessed with sports. When he made the basketball team at the city’s largest school, he had high hopes. But after riding the bench all season and not making the team as a sophomore, he fell into a depression and identity crisis.

He took a guitar class as an elective and dived into music, a familiar world since his father was a church music leader. He served on the youth worship team for a short time, but knew he’d found something to channel his passion. He chose Wayland to continue his education in music, seeking a smaller place the opposite of his large high school. That time was formative.

“It was a really good overall experience for me. The music department was amazing. I wasn’t much of a singer but was brought into the vocals area pretty quickly, which helped me with a lot of harmony,” said Jonathan. “To this day, I sing a lot of background vocals when I play, and that helped me have a solid foundation.”

Jimmerson family
Jimmerson and his family

Jonathan mentioned WBU mentors like Robert Black and former choral directors Dr. Scott Herrington and Dr. Debbie Buford, who led the Spirit ensemble and brought him along though he felt “I didn’t belong in that group because everyone was so much better than me.” That experience helped him train his ears to hearing pitch, which has served him well in his current roles.

“Going to college, I really found life, and it started for me there. I started playing at D’Nows and camps in the summer, joined a bunch of Christian bands and led worship, which was fun,” he recalls. “It was mind-blowing to make money playing music.”

Turning the page

Leaving Wayland, Jonathan moved to Lubbock and got plugged into the South Plains music scene. But he got bored quickly and wanted more of a challenge, so he headed to San Francisco, where he could hone his craft and go to seminary. The environment was quite different, with a vibrant music scene but little Christian music which had been Jonathan’s lifeblood. He credits playing with musicians in the many clubs and bars with making him better due to their many years of playing.

He played with an Israeli singer/songwriter for several years and was part of an Allman Brothers/Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band as well. Then he jumped back into full-time church music ministry for 10 years, meeting his wife Selby at a multi-church worship event where he was playing guitar. He then moved to Folsom, Calif., where he started a music school for around 100 students, which worked well around his weekend gigs. After he married Selby, a long-time hair stylist, the couple opened a salon that he managed along with his other roles.

It was during his country band days that Jonathan was encouraged to learn the steel guitar and possibly get a full-time gig. He did, and though the full-time job didn’t pan out, he came away with a new skill at which increased his marketability.

“Steel guitar is an umbrella term for three instruments: the dobro, the lap steel and the pedal steel. They are three different instruments and all sound very different and have different uses, but they are thrown under the same umbrella. They are all played with a slide and use finger picks,” he explained.

Jonathan said the pedal steel is probably most familiar to audiences, used heavily in country music,

Jimmerson on guitar
Jonathan stars on guitar.

Americana and African American churches since in can replicate a pipe organ. The tempered instrument must be tuned by ear, much like a piano, but to every song. Having a good ear is key, and Jonathan has spent years honing that skill.

He played on the tour for country duo Neon Union and worked regularly as a utility player, meaning he can play the guitar, steel guitar, keyboard, acoustic, mandolin, banjo, synthesizer and midi-type instruments as well as singing background vocals.

The next measure

When the pandemic hit, two of Jonathan’s livelihoods shut down almost immediately: the salon and the bars/clubs where he played music full-time. The music school stayed active since lessons were online and parents were desperate for their children to keep learning. But when the state began to open back up, the Jimmersons were ready for a change of scenery. So were Selby’s parents, ready to retire and not wanting to stay in California. After Jonathan and Selby visited Nashville on vacation, she felt drawn to the area. He was a little apprehensive.

“I was a little intimidated by all the talent, and I had a really good gig in California. I wasn’t complaining, but it was a good move overall,” he said, noting his in-laws bought a house a full year before the Jimmersons packed up and headed east, settling in the suburb of Spring Hill, Tenn., in January 2022 with their four children, two sons now 8 and 6 and two daughters ages 4 and 2.

Moving to Nashville, Jonathan joined the throngs that arrive in Music City waiting for their big break. He said he felt like he was starting over, and he didn’t really know anyone there that could open doors for him. On an airplane flight, however, he met Dave, a long-time steel guitar player for Luke Bryan, and they struck up a friendship. Dave invited him over to jam, and Jonathan admits he was brutally honest in his assessments. But he took Dave’s suggestions and began working on his craft even more.

Then this summer, he got a call from the music director for rising country star Larry Fleet, who found his clip on social media and noted his friendship with a former musician for Martina McBride. He asked Jonathan to audition for the band, and he was chosen to join Fleet’s headlining tour that kicked off in mid-September at the Ryman. The performances will include some shows with Morgan Wallen and a European tour with Wallen as well. He believes being in Nashville was a plus since he’s nearby for the bus calls that lead off tour dates. But he knows there is more to the music business.

“It’s a very relational environment. Tennessee is a melting pot but culturally it has retained those southern roots, where people are very relational. It’s more of a friendship thing, and they have to be authentic,” he said, noting he’s made some great friends in the industry and learned much from them, like the McBride band member. “He is an unbelievable player, and he told them I was legit, so that probably went further than my audition.”

Exceeding expectations

Jonathan admits his time in Nashville has been much more productive than he imagined, expecting he would be taking a break from music while making connections. He can only thank God for the opened doors and enjoy each opportunity while he can.

Jimmerson on dobro
Jimmerson demonstrates the dobro

“I love this business, and I’m all about it. I like to travel, and I love to go to new places, and I get to go to places that we’d never go to. That’s the great part about touring is going to places you would normally not choose to go,” he said. “You get to meet people and hanging out backstage is a lot of fun. I’m blessed to be able to make a living making music.”

Some of his highlight experiences so far have included playing steel guitar for Carrie Underwood at the Ryman, notably on her signature solo of the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art.” He also loved playing in a worship band in California before evangelist Greg Laurie spoke to a packed venue. But working as a studio musician for artists who are recording their own music stands out as well for the permanency and emotion it represents. Still, he is humbled by knowing the struggle going on around him daily by so many musicians in Nashville.

“It’s a tough town to break into, and people get really discouraged here. Every singer is an incredible songwriter too, and it feels like a roll of the dice for a lot of people here. It helps that I play steel guitar because it is a niche, but all the best players do play here,” he said, noting he’s endured plenty of harsh remarks that have made him work even harder.

“It can be brutal, and it hurts. You have one of two choices: you can get discouraged and give up, or you can go home and woodshed and get better,” he said. “If you put yourself out there as someone who wants to learn, people will not call you out as much. Be humble and don’t try to pretend like you’re perfect. Call yourself out and work things out in the moment, and they see you’re trying to learn.”

The Jimmersons recently opened a small salon in Franklin, Tenn., for Selby, and he teaches music lessons at a local recreation center.


Devotional: Live as Jesus did

God is love

At the end of Matthew chapter 13, Jesus returns to His hometown to teach the people in the synagogue there. The crowds are first astonished by His “wisdom and mighty works” (v. 54). The people are amazed by Jesus, but then we read in verse 57 that the crowds became offended. This passage allows us to see a true definition of love that is displayed by Jesus.

Loving someone doesn’t include agreeing with their views or actions. The world tells us that we do not truly love others if we don’t agree with them. The loving Christian must find the route of true love. True love is not shy. True love is not cowardly. Loving someone means you desire for them to have a deeper relationship with Christ regardless of whether they favor you in the end or not. We cannot desire approval from humankind so much that we choose to remain quiet in moments where we are presented with the opportunity to share The Truth.

The people of Jesus’ hometown were offended by Jesus’ teaching of Scripture. The crowds included members of Jesus’ family. We see Jesus display this type of love that transcends

God shows love

what we know as love today. He cared more about their eternity in heaven than He did about their approval of Him, and because of His full humanness, it hurt Him as it would us.

Jesus probably wanted His family and friends to favor Him, but He knew that telling them the truth of the kingdom was an action that outweighed His own desires.

Jesus chose to truly love these people. He selflessly dismissed the desire for affirmation and spoke truth instead. The world will tell you to remain quiet. It will tell you that being favored by the world is of supreme importance. Some churches are even sending this message too. This leads to selfish love that only gives to receive. Our mission on this earth is not to receive as much love as we can, but instead to show the world a love that transcends the worldly definition of love: a kind of love that leads back to The Father always.

As Christians, it is important to live as Jesus did: a life of showing love in grace AND truth. I encourage you to love those around you more than

(Jeffrey Vera is Director of WBU Alumni Relations and Career Services, BCM '17)


In the Mix

Our Baptist Student Ministry (BSM), located in the Student Ministries Activity Center (SMAC) hosts several fellowship opportunities each month, to help connect our student body, through ministry. From cookouts, tailgate parties, ultimate frisbee, and game nights, students are welcome to join any event and/or ministry.

The “FRESH815”, is a ministry geared toward incoming freshman. The name comes from Luke 8, the parable of the sower. JR Dunn (Director of the BSM) and his staff, want to see freshman become seeds that fell on good soil and to grow where they’ve been planted. They meet every Thursday night in the first Fall semester at 8:15pm in the SMAC.  From bits of wisdom and survival skills shared by former freshman, to our newcomers, a bond is formed.

Students attend FOCUS

Another way our BSM helps connect our students to serving God, is through FOCUS.  This is a weekly large group worship service, which is an integral part of what the BSM does on campus.  This is a time for students across campus to come together for worship, fellowship, and study.  The service includes a student led worship band and short message from our BSM Director or a guest. (7p; Monday Nights)

Not only does the BSM focus on our students on campus, but it offers them to serve through missions year-round. Whether it be through Texas Baptist Student Missions, International Mission Board of the SBC, or North American Mission Board of the SB, serving is an opportunity for our students to give back, through outreach. 

The Baptist Student Ministry is a place where all are welcome! From our international students who take part in special meals from their home country and eat together, to those late-night (or early-bird) bible-worshippers, that attend Midnight Worship; Wayland Baptist University throughout the years have provided students with opportunities, to not only grow academically and socially, but spiritually as well.

BSM at an outreach event

If you would like to help with contributing to the BSM, by praying, volunteering, giving, or even speaking at a service, please reach out to our Director of the BSM, JR Dunn at 806-291-3596 or dunnj@wbu.edu.

Do you have a great memory of being involved with the BSM? Send it to veraj@wbu.edu

(Jeffrey Vera is Director of WBU Alumni Relations and Career Services, BCM '17)