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Inside Gotham: Joanne Wilson’s Wonderfully Artistic World

The multifaceted art collector, investor, and entrepreneur Joanne Wilson shares details on her creative life, from what stores inspire her to what working with women means for business.

Eliza Jordan

21 February 2024

Joanne Wilson has had many careers. Due in part to her multifaceted interest in culture, she started working in the retail business before moving into wholesale, and then ventured into the media side of the technology industry. Along the way, she became a mom, chaired a handful of non-profit organizations, and kept her eye on how the next generation of tech businesses were cropping up in New York.

“I jumped in as an angel investor focusing on female entrepreneurs, as well as Black and Brown founders,” Wilson shared with Whitewall. “I invested in over 150 companies, including Food52, Eater, JustWorks, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Parachute Home.”


Joanne Wilson, courtesy of Gotham.

Going Back to Retail with Gotham

Investing in rising cultural appreciations gave her a first-hand look at what people wanted. Her love of retail, though, lingered. “I’ve always wanted to open a store of my own. Living through the pandemic in the city I love and call home, watching so many brick and mortar stores shutter, pushed me to create Gotham.”

Today, those that know Gotham—a thoughtfully-curated concept store and brand, an art exhibition and community gathering space, and one of the only legal cannabis stores in Manhattan—appreciate it from the outside first. Pops of color reel passersby in through a storefront mural by Evan Paul English, a Brooklyn-based artist known for his signature floral motif paintings. It is here that English, as well as Gotham, show their mutual abilities to capture the intersection of art, fashion, and the once-taboo topic of cannabis for a friendly, gorgeous exploration of the senses. For the mural, English gained inspired from the brand’s color palette and 1970s psychedelic poster art, which was also turned into a limited-edition tote bag for sale.


Mural by Evan Paul English, courtesy of Gotham.

An Art-Filled Space

Once inside, visitors get a second wind of art—from digital media and commissioned installations to rotating exhibitions and more. First, an animation video work entitled Endless Joint by David Shrigley grabs attention from a screen in the entryway. Then, a commissioned life-size installation of a tree by the New York-based artist Molly Lowe appears from floor to ceiling, inspired by New York’s native elm trees. Upstairs on the mezzanine, nicknamed “The Mezz,” a series of large-scale paintings from English appear, yet the space rotates presentations throughout the year.

This spring, Gotham is set to unveil an exclusive collaboration with the textile artist and model Ella Emhoff. For the collaboration, Emhoff will take over The Mezz with an installation of textile art, as well as create her first-ever product line—a limited-edition one-of-one home good and knit décor line al handcrafted by her.

Whitewall spoke with Wilson about the complex nature of opening a store of this caliber in an evolving legal and creative landscape, and how Gotham became an energizing place for curation, collaboration, philanthropy, and more.


Photo by Chris Coe, courtesy of Gotham.

WHITEWALL: Your store feels more like a cultural center than a traditional cannabis store, as it features home and personal items, world-class art, rotating exhibitions and pop-up events, and more.  What was your initial idea behind a space like this?

JOANNE WILSON: I have always been inspired by shops like Dover Street Market and Colette Paris. You can shop, eat, discover, and experience. Having all of that under one roof with events to create community, and art to inspire was the idea. The guiding light was to change the narrative and perception around cannabis. That was the inspiration for Gotham.

WW: Gotham is one of the few legally operating cannabis stores in New York. Many people don’t understand the complexities of obtaining a license and opening a store of this caliber. Can you describe the nature of this landscape? What do you wish people knew?

JW: I can write a whole book on the hurdles you encounter when opening a dispensary in New York. It is not easy. It is costly, the rules keep changing, getting insurance is more expensive than average, banking is tough, even allowing for credit card transactions for our customers is a hurdle. Keep in mind that cannabis is highly regulated, so to operate legally you must adhere to the rules and regulations. However, the most challenging and most surprising challenge has been competing with over 8,000 illegal stores operating freely in New York City. They control the market and are definitely not playing by the rules.


Photo by Chris Coe, courtesy of Gotham.

WW: To open this sore, you partnered with we Strive—an organization that helps support people who have been previously incarcerated. Can you tell us more about this?

JW: I always wanted Gotham to give back to the community that had been hurt by the war on drugs. In addition to our work with Strive, we are committed to providing a fair living wage for all our employees as well as fully covered health care. I currently sit on the board of the Highline and chair the Public Housing Community Fund.

Business Powered by Art and Women

WW: Gotham is also a female-run company. What does working with women give you that you exercise at the space?

JW: What happens when you work with women that care deeply about creating something, who love business, shit gets done. It is impressive.

WW: Gotham’s storefront window features a floral mural by Evan Paul English. How did this capture the intersection of art, fashion, and cannabis, and draw inspiration from Gotham?

JW: Evan is known for his floral motifs which he takes inspiration from vintage floral fabrics, postcards and other ephemera that he collects. He had worked for us before creating a fabulous mural in the backyard of Framework, a co-working space on the ground floor of Frame Home, the first carbon-free apartment building we built in Brooklyn. At Gotham, he blends the cannabis leaves with the floral elements. He layered a collage of vintage fabrics and cannabis leaves, which were digitally painted before finally making it a mural. For the color palette, he drew inspiration from Gotham’s brand colors and 1970s psychedelic poster.


Mural by Evan Paul English, courtesy of Gotham.

WW: In addition to his mural outside, this month the artist presented a show on The Mezz of his large-scale abstract paintings. What other artworks appear inside the space?

JW: The first thing that greets all visitors to Gotham is a video work by Daivd Shrigley called Endless Joint, a continuous animation loop of a joint being passed. Gotham has permanent floor-to-ceiling tree sculpture by NYC-based multimedia artist, Molly Lowe. She’s a multidisciplinary artist who likes to transform everyday materials into more realistic natural objects. The piece is inspired by the elm tree, one of the oldest and most elegant trees native to New York.  She used recycled shredded cardboard for the trunk and camo mesh for the leaves. She made the tree interconnect with the pipes on the ceiling, so it looks like the canopy grows through the roof. It’s stunning.

We have a park bench that encircles the tree so guests can sit and chill. This piece is a signature that will be at all of our other stores, a different tree, but a tree. We also have a dedicated gallery space on the mezzanine called The Mezz, with changing art installations programmed throughout the year.

Collaboration and Community

WW: The space collaborates with other artists in many different ways, including recent partnerships with brands like anOnlyChild and Fun City Tattoos. What are your thoughts on Gotham operating as an artists and community space beyond showing art and selling products?

We had events with NFT galleries such as Bright Moments and Primitives to showcase digital artists like Ngozi, Jimena Buena Vida, Ana Roman, and Luca Goly.  We also commissioned the Brooklyn-based artist Evan Paul English to paint a mural on our storefront which we then turned into a limited-edition canvas tote. We have work that we commissioned from Andrew Zucker of cannabis plants from our farmers, seeing the entire root and leaves. We also worked with Maxwell Osborne designer of AnOnlyChild and Fun City Tattoo owner and artist Big Steve to create a limited-edition capsule collection that combined tattoo artistry, urban street style and high fashion, only available at Gotham. We also had a show of Stefanie Boyd-Berks beautiful needlepoint pieces. Highlighting artists is an important piece of Gotham.


Photo by Chris Coe, courtesy of Gotham.

WW: Other home items available in the store range from pillows, home trays, clothing, and perfume. What was the concept behind offering a wide range of lifestyle products?

JW: We believe that partaking in cannabis is a lifestyle. We have multiple cann-adjacent products. We pair premium cannabis products with sculptural and artistic lifestyle accessories from Houseplant, House of Puff, Edie Parker, Tetra, and Yew Yew Shop.  We also carry home goods like pillows, serving trays, and linen. Some of the brands we stock are KJP Studio, Zoe Schlacter, Atlawa, Oyoy, and more. We also carry hip clothing, hats, and fragrances. We have a private-label brand called Gotham for candles, soaps, moisturizers, CBD products and more. All of these products have been named with a nod to musical artists that came through the Bowery.

WW: The space also hosts events. Last fall, you hosted Primitives to showcase its new work, with pieces by Ana Roman (sculptor), Luca Goly (Lv<^), Murph Phi, and Siena Saba seen. What was presenting works from the NFT collective in your space like? 

JW: It was such fun. There were many people who knew many of the artists, and those who experienced NFT art for the first time. It brought a new community to the store, and let all of us enjoy the art. We hosted it on The Mezz, our dedicated loft-like spot on the second floor.

WW: How would you describe your personal relationship with art? Supporting New York-based artists, as a New Yorker yourself?

JW: We have been collecting art for a long time. Most of the work we collected over the years is from up-and-coming artists. We get to the museums, the galleries and make sure we do it in our hometown and when we travel. There were years when I knew all the artist’s work we bought. Unfortunately, that is not the case now, but we continue to collect.


Photo by Chris Coe, courtesy of Gotham.

A Passion for Art Collecting

WW: What’s in your personal art collection?

JW: We have a broad collection of sculptures, photography, paintings, and charcoals. We are the proud owners of art pieces from Vanessa and Alex Prager, James Nares, Derrick Adams, Matthew Wedel, and James Casebere, to name a few.

WW: Gotham is approaching is one-year anniversary. How are you looking at the future? 2024?

JW: We will open more stores in 2024, we want our delivery service to grow, build out our DTC business, do more partnerships, create new ad campaigns, and create more events to build our community.

WW: How would you describe your hopes for 2024?

JW: My biggest hope for 2024 that cannabis comes federally legal and is reclassified as a schedule III drug. That will change everything for this industry. The time has come. 



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Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.