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Creative Casting The Hutchinson Leader

By KAY JOHNSON

It's not often your voice is more recognizable than your face, but that's the case for KARP radio personality J.P. Meier. He job shares the afternoon 2 to 7 p.m. slot with Sandy Buetler. She's on the air Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and J.P. takes over Thursday and Friday. He's also the voice on Saturday mornings from 5:30 a.m. to noon. "My real name is John Petermeier," he said. "When I went to Mason City, Iowa, to work in radio, they told me my name didn't cut it. That's how we came up with J.P. Meier and I've used it ever since." As much as radio has been Petermeier's first love since childhood, he shared it with an interest in creating art - drawing.

"I always knew I'd go into radio," he said, "but I enjoyed art, too.

My mom was very creative. She made crafts and dolls. My dad is a plasterer and there's an art to that. My sister Paula paints sculptures and my brother Dan is a writer. I come from a family of seven and I think everyone loves art and works at it.

"I recall as my earliest artistic memory," he added, "coloring on the living room wall when I was 3 or 4 years old. I wasn't aware that I was doing something so horribly wrong, but Mom confiscated my crayons for a week."

Early years Petermeier was born in Minneapolis, but the family moved to Watertown when he was a young child. He grew up there graduating from Watertown High School in 1980. That fall, he enrolled at Mankato State University where he took general education classes, as well as a lot of art courses. "I liked the fine art classes of painting and drawing," he said, "but I wasn't much interested in the commercial art end. I realized that art might be a hobby for me instead of a career. After one year, I decided to pursue my interest in radio and applied to Brown Institute in Minneapolis."

Petermeier took a one-year course in radio and television broadcasting. "I loved it more than art," he said. "I ate it up."

Following graduation in 1982, he landed his first job working at a country music station near the Iowa/Missouri border. "I made $600 a month," he said. "Can you believe it?" About a year later, he moved to a rock 'n' roll station in Mason City, Iowa, where he picked up his new radio call name, J.P. Meier. "I wanted to be closer to my family and closer to home," he said, "so this was a move in that direction."

The life of a gypsy

After two years, Petermeier moved to Stevens Point, Wis., where he returned to a country music formatted station. After a year there, he moved back to Iowa, taking a job again in country radio in Spencer. Petermeier admits that at this point in his life, he was getting tired of living the life of a gypsy. "I was tired of moving around," he said, "and I really wanted to be closer to home."

He did a lot of soul searching at this point in his career and decided to move back to Minneapolis and return to school. "My thought was that I could find a part-time job in radio and go back to school to try art again," he said.

Petermeier followed his heart and relocated to the Twin Cities. He enrolled at Hennepin Technical College where he earned a one-year business degree, but admitted that he took every art course they offered. He juggled his school responsibilities with a part-time radio job with a Buffalo station.

In 1995, he was offered a job with KARP radio in Hutchinson and he took it. "I joined the staff about two years after they started," he said. "It felt good to be there. By this time, I had moved back to Watertown. I truly found a radio home when I was asked to work with the KARP gang. We have been great friends for several years. Plus, John Mons, KARP operations manager, has always allowed me the freedom to develop as a creative radio air talent."

In 1998, John's father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Following his surgery, Petermeier left KARP and followed his brother to Arizona. He didn't like Minnesota winters, so this was an attractive alternative. Although he enjoyed the Southwest, he missed his family and he felt he should be home.

Following his heart, he came back to Minnesota and was rehired at his radio home at KARP, where he started working weekend hours and eventually moved into a position that he jobshares with Sandy Buetler.

"When I came back, I also worked at Wells Fargo," he said. "From there, I took a job with Traveler's Express, where I provide custo service help to our agents. I'm still doing this today. I'm able to work out of my home office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and I'm on the radio Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning."

In July 1998, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died in June 1999.
"Caring for my mother was one of the hardest things I've ever done," he said, "but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I'm glad I was here to help."

About his art
John Petermeier is a versatile artist who works in a variety of mediums and styles. Much of his artwork reflects his love of small-town life and wildlife of the prairie and upper Midwest, but he's also known for his portraits of people.

"Being a radio announcer and an artist is a big part of my life," Petermeier said. "There's definitely a connection between drawing and being a creative radio announcer. It's self expression in two different forms. People who can work from that 'creative side' of their mind, typically can express themselves in many ways."

Petermeier works in a variety of mediums, including: pencil, colored pencil, design marker, computer sketching and occasionally pastel.

Many times he will combine drawing mediums to create a unique piece of art. "When I was in high school and college I loved painting," he said, "but I never liked the cleanup aspect of it. It was also hard to travel with paints and brushes. I decided that drawing was a better fit for me, so I've stuck with it."

Petermeier credits a trip to Italy in 2000, which included a visit to Rome, Florence, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel for reinspiring his interest in his art. "I actually met Pope John Paul II in the Papal residence," he said.

"Meeting him has been the high point of my life. If I could meet anyone, it would be the Pope. He's a champion of the arts. I love the Pontiff's recognition and salute to artists. In a letter to artists recently the Pope said, 'Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers.' He confirmed my belief that art is of great importance. My visit to Italy helped me reflect on my talent and that I truly need to express the gifts that God has given me, and to give this gift back to Him with my art." When Petermeier returned from Italy, he drew several images of Pope John Paul, as well as Mother Theresa. Some of his images can now be seen on the Web site, www.catholic.net.

"I've always taken my art seriously," he said, "but maybe not seriously enough."

With the recommitment to his art, came the creation of Prairie Wind Art, an online gallery.
"John Mons has been a huge supporter of my work," he said. "He'd been after me for years to do something with it and one day we got started talking about a Web site. When I came back from Italy, we decided it was time to stop talking and to take action. We came up with the name Prairie Wind Art because it reflects this area of the state and so much more. When I think of the prairie, I think of wide open spaces, the outdoors, wildlife, Minnesota and beyond. John and I enlisted the Web expertise of Erv George from KARP/KDUZ to help put our Web site together. I've been lucky because the whole KARP family has been very supportive of my work. Our eventual goal is to feature the artwork of several artists. It takes a lot of time, but it's coming along." 
     

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