Practicing the art of community radio in Bend.
Jill Mahler wasn’t looking for another career when she applied to be an office assistant at Bend’s KPOV. But, after ten years at the community radio station—including four years as 88.9 KPOV’s station manager—there’s no denying she found one.
When she walked through the door a decade ago, Mahler thought her previous experience with arts organizations, including Arts Central, Mirror Pond Gallery, and Art Station would make her a good fit for the part-time job. As an empty nester, she wasn’t looking for much more than a few volunteer hours to fill her time and a chance to meet some new people.
Despite her lack of experience in broadcasting, Mahler took immediately to her work at the station. She wrote numerous grants to help underwrite programs at the volunteer-operated and donation-supported radio station in downtown Bend. She designed and built a podcast network and created the station’s new website.
“It’s a weird hybrid of nonprofit and media outlet,” she says. As a result, her job includes technical, programming, community engagement, and fundraising elements. “I see myself as a creative person, but I am doing all this administrative stuff,” she said. “But then I realized, this stuff is creative.”
Despite her accomplishments, Mahler hardly fits the traditional, type-A executive director mold. She wanted to be a full-time artist when she was younger but said she didn’t have the courage to follow her dream. Still, you don’t have to do much digging to see there’s an artist just below the surface of her station manager facade. On any given day, she can be found wearing one of the many scarves she’s knitted. Some of the designs are repurposed from thrift shop sweaters, which she unravels and re-knits to create something new.
She’s been a professional jewelry maker and worked at art galleries.
“I was inspired and motivated by being around art,” she said, explaining her creative journey through colored pencil painting, pastels, and mixed media landscapes. These days she’s focused on fiber arts like tapestry weaving. Recently, she sold almost all her entries in the $20 art show at Bright Place gallery. It was enough to cover the cost of her loom. Just as importantly, the art is being enjoyed by others, she said.
“One of the most beautiful things about art is sharing it with other people,” Mahler explains. “Which is kind of what we do here.”
Although Mahler never wanted a traditional nine-to-five job, she said the work at KPOV feels different because of the end goal, which is inform and entertain listeners.
“Community radio isn’t something you go to school to study. Most of us just fell into it. “It’s created for the community, by the community,” she said. “If they have something to tell their community, we provide a platform for that.”