Your Style: Megan Johnston

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Megan Johnston

Motto:"A signature necklace sets you apart from every other person in the room."

One of Megan Johnston's favorite painters is Georgia O'Keefe. As the Rochester Art Center's new executive director, Johnston embraces O'Keefe's view: "The days you work are the best days."

From the time of her arrival here this fall, Johnston has said she is looking forward to many productive days, not to mention evenings, at the art center and in the community.

Originally from Stillwater, Johnston's work history includes museum and gallery work. She comes to Rochester from The Model contemporary art center in Sligo, Ireland, where she served as director and curator. She also previously worked at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Walker Art Center and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, as well as the Plains Art Museum in Fargo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

As Johnston happily explains, she was drawn here by the global vision of Rochester and the promise of contributing to the international arts and culture scene here.


Paint us a picture of your style, would you?

Black, artsy, funky, signature necklaces. Causal yet sophisticated — almost always dresses.

Where did your style originate?

From working for more than 20 years in art museums — inspiration is New York style.

What is your view of New York style?

Anything and everything black, simple lines, simple elegance. I add in comfort, too. Eileen Fisher's clothing is a favorite.

Does your style match your professional role?

Absolutely! It is a direct reflection of my interests in art. I believe that the way we dress is a form of our own creativity.


Is your style illustrative of favorite art genres?

Yes. I am into all genres of art, from contemporary to historical. However, my focus and passion is on contemporary art, from the European Biennial circuit and modern museums to innovative craft and design.

Specific European influences that we may see in your style or Rochester's art scene?

Bauhaus, generally. And, importantly, a love of Irish fabrics — from linen to woolen and the soft colors found in the contemporary craft designs found there.

Artists in particular who may have inspired your style or works you like?

Frida Kahlo, Kasimir Malevich Black Square painting, Georgia O'Keeffe's New York Series. And anything from the Bauhaus.

How does your professional style differ from your casual attire or look?

I wear a lot of the same items every day — dresses and leggings with flats. I wear more casual dresses on the weekend.


Has your style changed with your life?

I don't really wear heels anymore — or rarely. I now wear or have a few strong, great quality pieces of clothing rather than a lot of inexpensive, trendy pieces. Moving back and forth from Europe three times in six years meant I had to regularly donate clothing and cull my closet.

The most essential component in your wardrobe?

Signature necklaces. I have about a dozen from which I select from to wear every day.

Details, please.

Striking and bold. You can see one of my favorites in the Style image. It's porcupine spikes and shell.

What should every well-dressed woman have in her wardrobe?

A signature necklace sets you apart from every other person in the room and allows for your creativity and personality to shine through even the most basic outfit.


Do you have a priceless sentimental piece?

My mother's pearl necklace. I wear it only on very special occasions.

Is there something in your wardrobe people would see as unexpected?

I still have my vintage sweater — knitted with mink fur cuffs — from my wedding. I wore it over an Eileen Fischer cream dress. I rarely wear it, but I love to look at it every day.

Do you have favorite colors to wear or not so?

I only really wear black — it's signature and easy to match — more or less. I also have one pink dress, one floral with black and one orange. I looked this morning and checked — I knew you would ask this question.

Preferred season in terms of clothing?

Autumn is my all-time favorite. Cool enough to wear a few layers, but not too cold to have to cover them up with a big coat.


Don't mind if I ask, how does your home decor relate to your style?

I like a clean, contemporary design for the house but in opposite. I like walls to be white with contemporary art, black or dark furniture. Minimal furniture and for accents — wood and natural materials such as Irish woolen throws, driftwood and found shells and rocks from the shores of Ireland to add visual texture and warmth.

Thoughts on Rochester's style?

I love the international feel that Rochester has. Casual yet sophisticated. Not too fussy but a lot of elegance.

Anne Murphy is a Rochester freelance writer who has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years.

Do you know somebody who's got special style? Send nominations to or call Life section editor Jeff Pieters at 507-285-7748.

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Megan Johnston

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