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'Will Work For ...': Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer pays tribute to the people of his home state with history center portrait exhibit

When Carol Goodwin looks at the portrait Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer painted of her and her husband, Mark, she sees a spontaneous decision transformed into a cherished memory.

She had read a 2017 story in The Oklahoman about Wimmer, then the Skirvin artist in residence, and his “Will Work For …” project, a series of portraits of people holding signs sharing their passion in life.

“I threw my shirt on, got my poor husband in the wheelchair, and made the sign. And we went down there. And it was so funny because he was painting away in the studio, and we stood out on the sidewalk and looked in the window with the sign. And he (went) ‘Come in, come in,’” she recalled. “It was a good day.”

“Oh, it was a great day,” Wimmer replied.

The portrait depicts the Oklahoma City woman wearing her Walk to End Alzheimer’s T-shirt, while her husband, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, holding their sign, “Will Work for a Cure.”

The Goodwins’ is one of 17 portraits in Wimmer’s series at the Oklahoma History Center in the exhibit “Will Work For …,” on view through June 29.

“It had been an idea for quite some time … and I think the impetus behind it is really my interest just in people, humanity,” Wimmer said.

Featuring Oklahomans

The series prompted Wimmer to apply for the Skirvin Hilton Hotel’s artist in residence program, even though he already had a job at Oklahoma City University and a successful art career. The Muskogee native’s illustrations have appeared on an array of products, from “The Lion King” soundtrack to Celestial Seasonings tea boxes.

“I literally saw a sign. I would come into the city every day to teach at OCU as the chair of the art department at that time, and I would see along the street these people holding up their signs: ‘Will work for food,’ ‘Will work for a hand up, not a handout,’” Wimmer said. “And that’s where the kernel of the idea really started."

Along with everyday people, he recruited several high-profile Oklahomans for the series, including former Miss America Jane Jayroe, TV meteorologist Mike Morgan and then-state Sen. David Holt, now Oklahoma City's mayor.

“Maybe some day I’ll be of some status where people are painting pictures of me left and right. But in this case, this is a first for me. … And to have Mike Wimmer, somebody with his pedigree — I mean, half the paintings in the Oklahoma state Capitol are his work — it’s just an unbelievable, really cool deal,” said Holt, whose sign in his portrait reads “Will Work for You.”

“Fundamentally, if you get into this line of work, public service, presuming you’re honest — and I am — you’re not in it for the money. You’re in it to help people."

Also featured in the exhibit is a portrait of Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn, whom Wimmer depicted with the sign “Will Work to Share Oklahoma’s Story.”

“We’ve always shared that bond to the story,” Blackburn said. “I wanted Oklahomans to appreciate Mike Wimmer ... probably the most accomplished illustrator in all of Oklahoma history.”

In 2017, Wimmer accepted a faculty position at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. He divided his time between the two states until his wife, Jime, also secured a teaching job at SCAD.

“It’s the top art school in the nation right now. … We have the numbers to prove it,” Wimmer said. “We dearly miss Oklahoma. ... It’s never a chore to come back.”

Immortalizing awareness

Seeing her portrait with her husband on the history center walls was so moving for Carol Goodwin that she returned to express her appreciation during a reception for Wimmer.

“He had a great sense of humor,” she said. “It looks like a photograph of him. It looks exactly, exactly like him. And me.”

Mark Goodwin died last year, and his wife said she hopes that Wimmer’s portrait helps raise awareness of the need for more Alzheimer's research.

“It’s nice to have the painting of Mark and I. ... But I’m really glad that Mike liked the idea, so that this can immortalize that awareness.”

ON VIEW

Mike Wimmer’s 'Will Work For …'

When: Through June 29.

Where: Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.

Information: www.okhistory.org.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8256842441a4d0e4986892085ba81f1a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bce48ad3caec1ae214f592a743d9df90.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma History Center visitors look on March 21 at "Will Work For ...," an exhibit of portraits by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e3bfcd3030be2b75127739d6ef693a3a.jpg" alt="Photo - Mary and John Seward stand in front of their portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Mary and John Seward stand in front of their portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Mary and John Seward stand in front of their portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-67c11d5c4a71a11a1a9def3cdf0bae22.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt talks with artist Mike Wimmer, an Oklahoma native now based in Georgia, at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt talks with artist Mike Wimmer, an Oklahoma native now based in Georgia, at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt talks with artist Mike Wimmer, an Oklahoma native now based in Georgia, at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f8802decc18947e68164c7b7767129f2.jpg" alt="Photo - Artist Mike Wimmer, an Oklahoma native now based in Georgia, speaks at a reception for his portrait exhibit "Will Work For ..." at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Artist Mike Wimmer, an Oklahoma native now based in Georgia, speaks at a reception for his portrait exhibit "Will Work For ..." at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Artist Mike Wimmer, an Oklahoma native now based in Georgia, speaks at a reception for his portrait exhibit "Will Work For ..." at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c12b871f3a50c95443149f5446b85831.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn, left, and artist Mike Wimmer listen as former Gov. Frank Keating announces a book he and Wimmer are working on at an event at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn, left, and artist Mike Wimmer listen as former Gov. Frank Keating announces a book he and Wimmer are working on at an event at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn, left, and artist Mike Wimmer listen as former Gov. Frank Keating announces a book he and Wimmer are working on at an event at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-46f9d5f9ebd11fb935236508efb27c2f.jpg" alt="Photo - Mary Blankenship Pointer stands in front of her portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Mary Blankenship Pointer stands in front of her portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Mary Blankenship Pointer stands in front of her portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-969bc00812f778507fa83467860b752d.jpg" alt="Photo - Jane Jayroe Gamble stands in front of her portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Jane Jayroe Gamble stands in front of her portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Jane Jayroe Gamble stands in front of her portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fb2d8df89f391186d1ea8e347c614ec0.jpg" alt="Photo - Artist Mike Wimmer speaks with attendees during a reception for his portrait exhibit "Will Work For ..." at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Artist Mike Wimmer speaks with attendees during a reception for his portrait exhibit "Will Work For ..." at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Artist Mike Wimmer speaks with attendees during a reception for his portrait exhibit "Will Work For ..." at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ce922eee8949d5f2ca381e7efbeabc09.jpg" alt="Photo - Carol Goodwin stands in front of the portrait of her and her late husband, Mark, by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Carol Goodwin stands in front of the portrait of her and her late husband, Mark, by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Carol Goodwin stands in front of the portrait of her and her late husband, Mark, by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1f830871476a82888bb3f8bce2128664.jpg" alt="Photo - Bob Blackburn stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Bob Blackburn stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Bob Blackburn stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f414655c1c9589c4335f54d715300cbb.jpg" alt="Photo - Rick Sinnett stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Rick Sinnett stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Rick Sinnett stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9f0c799987a60a2bd25954d60311fb95.jpg" alt="Photo - Richard McKown stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Richard McKown stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Richard McKown stands in front of his portrait by Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-55d05690193019c6d2f086c912e0c3ff.jpg" alt="Photo - Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer stands in front of an exhibit of his paintings at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer stands in front of an exhibit of his paintings at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Georgia-based Oklahoma native Mike Wimmer stands in front of an exhibit of his paintings at the Oklahoma History Center on March 21. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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