Get to Know Local Artist Megan Gonyo Who’s All In on MinneapolisMarch 3, 2021 by DRG
DRG sat down with local Minneapolis artist, Megan Gonyo, to learn more about her and why she is all in on Minneapolis!
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Megan Gonyo, an artist in the North Loop with a studio called Palette Champagne and a gallery space at Colonial Warehouse. I started as a landscape artist using oils, but over the past few years I’ve switched to acrylics and mixed media to create modern statement pieces.
What’s your background?
I’ll start my story in college because that’s when you’re supposed to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life, right? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I started out in education because I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Then, after the first week of courses, I quit and rearranged my whole semester schedule because it felt very wrong and not me. I had taken a nutritional science course the previous semester that I really liked, so I decided I’d do that. Fast forward to my capstone course senior year, and I failed. I couldn’t believe it, I FAILED! Because I didn’t read the syllabus to know that attendance was 50% of my grade, I had been enjoying the recorded sessions all semester in favor of getting up early enough for a 7:45 am class three days a week. And as stubborn as I was, I didn’t want to retake the course because now I hated the professor who failed me. So, I switched my major yet again and scoured the course catalog for a good match of a degree to courses that I already had under my belt. I’m proud to say that I did it, and one extra year later I graduated with a degree in the History of Science. Lesson learned? Your major doesn’t matter. Because life is a continuous learning process, and you follow the opportunities in front of you.
It’s funny, because now I would say one doesn’t even need a college degree to be really successful. It’s an outdated model. All you need is an idea, a support network and passion. Fast forward to today and I’m still making fast decisions when opportunities present themselves. And everything keeps bringing me closer and closer to where I need to be, even if I don’t recognize it at first.
How has Minneapolis impacted your art?
I’ve lived in Minneapolis for 13 years now. I moved here in 2008 with a then boyfriend for his job and was lucky enough to find one for myself at the University of Minnesota. And now, I am a resident of Bookmen Lofts in the North Loop. So, Minneapolis has influenced my entire adult life, and I’m thankful for that. I love food, wine, art and music, and this city has all of that. Not to mention the miles of running and bike trails that make you feel like you’re far away from downtown, but really just a 15-minute Uber drive away should you blow a tire halfway through your ride. It’s a nice escape when you can spend an hour running outdoors and sucking up all the crisp air by the Mississippi while thinking, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” and “Am I happy?”
Minneapolis is so beautiful, and it has a great appreciation for the creatives. And the people—I don’t even know where to start. It’s like instant attraction plus Minnesota Nice plus I want to party with you, and the rest is history. It’s a small city, so everyone knows everyone. So many entrepreneurs, people following their passion, and people who don’t care that it’s Tuesday because damn, if I miss a patio night in the summer then what is my purpose on this planet? So, in that way, I’ve been inspired to find my personal legend.
How has being a woman business owner impacted your work?
It’s hard work, not going to lie. But not because I’m a woman, it’s just hard all around. I do feel like I have a duty maybe more than others to set an example, which is that anyone can do anything they want to. I was in a bad relationship all through college and my 20s and I had always been told “I’m not smart enough” or “I’ll never make as much money [as he did].” That messed me up for a while, and I didn’t even realize it because I didn’t know another normal. But, as I grew in my jobs, the people I worked with encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, and I realized that maybe I am kinda smart. And maybe I do have it in me. So, that recognition of self-worth really motivated me. I applied for better jobs, got promotions, and even did a career change from higher education at The University of Minnesota to software sales at Oracle. And that’s when things really started picking up for me. It was a good change.
Since then, I’ve worked at two different software startup companies, and I’ve learned from the CEOs and other executive leaders the kind of things that make or break a business. One very important thing to say here is that although it’s a lot of work, if it’s truly what you were meant to do, then it doesn’t feel like work at all. I sometimes can’t sleep because my mind is racing about all the things I want to do tomorrow, or this week, and it’s the kind of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. If your heart’s not in it, then don’t do it. Regardless of how you identify yourself, you deserve to feel safe to make mistakes, bounce ideas around in your network of supportive people and critics alike, and to go after your dream. The best advice I’ve ever gotten? Just start. You’re never going to feel ready, and it’s okay to figure it out along the way.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
My work is meant to inspire everyone to find their purpose. Art is subjective, and the value of art is in the eye of the beholder. How does it make you feel? What memories does it trigger? How does it inspire you? These are all questions that only you can answer. For me, the work that I put out there is a reflection of my life experiences, and that’s why art is unique from one artist to the next. The easiest thing about being in this industry is that unlike software, for example, you can’t really compete with each other. There’s no one else who can do what you do! And that’s the insight that I hope to share with my followers in any industry—to instill motivation to do whatever it is that you’ve been dreaming about.
Who are your biggest influences?
I could say Tom Hanks, because he has always been my favorite actor since You’ve Got Mail. Or J. Lo because she’s Latina with a booty who paved the way for us not-so-skinny, beautiful women to be comfortable in our own skin. But really, it comes down to my personal network. My biggest supporters have been with me on my journey from Day One and haven’t quit on me yet, including everyone at Farrell’s North Loop [fitness center]. I go there because of the deep connections I’ve made on my journey to personal fitness. Kim Witczak gets a huge shout-out because she said do it, even when others were apprehensive and thought it too risky. I have old friends who have come back into my life in some way, shape or form who inspire me. And then there are the new people I meet along the way. It’s ever-evolving, and that’s what keeps it interesting.
What else do we need to know about you, your work or the Minneapolis artist community?
I’ve spent many years painting as a hobby, selling a few commissions here and there. But that’s all it ever was until six months ago. 2020 definitely changed my perspective. The world came to a halt and, like everyone else, I stopped traveling. I traveled both for my job and for leisure. It’s been such a huge influence in my life, and I believe that everyone should at some point drop everything and go to a country that doesn’t speak their language—and do it solo. Force yourself out of your comfort zone, because it’s the fastest way to feel a hell of a lot smarter and instill a sense of pride in yourself. I had to cancel my trip to Japan last year, and I had planned on Turkey this year. Because I had way more free time working from home, I decided this was the year to do something I had never thought possible before. I started thinking about doing more research and discovery on what it would take to have an art studio of my own. Katie and Tom at Cushman & Wakefield found me a space at Colonial Warehouse that was of mutual benefit. They gave me a really nice space for reduced rent in exchange for social media presence and the staging of the spaces available for lease with my artwork.
To quote Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” And that’s what happened. It was rather serendipitous. Speaking of people who influenced me, do you know that Mike Jones, CEO and co-founder of Alchemy 365 [fitness center], is the one who told me to read that book? He explained that his company’s philosophy and tagline of “Pursue Your Legend” is based on it. So, I guess you could say that my journey started there. Thank you, Mike! See? Minneapolis people are awesome.