James Michalopoulos

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James Michalopoulos
Born James Mitchell
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Nationality American
Education Self-taught
New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts
University of New Orleans
Known for Painting
Movement Post-impressionist[2]

James Michalopoulos (born 1951) is an American painter, sculptor, and entrepreneur. His paintings are "iconic" color filled textual representations of New Orleans, Louisiana life, San Francisco and landscapes. He is the owner of a liquor company called Celebration Distillation which makes Old New Orleans Rum.[3]

Personal life and education[edit]

James Michalopoulos, born James Mitchell, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1951.[1][3] He lived in the Northeastern United States. He attended and graduated from Bowdoin College. After graduating, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. Michalopoulos is a philanthropist, with a focus on supporting Habitat for Humanity. He lives and works primarily in New Orleans. He also has a home in Burgundy, France.[3]

Work as a professional artist[edit]

Michalopoulos is a self-taught artist. He observed what other artists were doing in New Orleans, specifically the artists who work in Jackson Square. He took classes at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and the University of New Orleans. He worked in Jackson Square as a street artist, drawing sketches of people in the square and drawing portraits of people for $2–3 each. Becoming tired of drawing portraits, he started traveling around the city on a Vespa with a portable easel, painting the buildings and architecture of New Orleans.

Michalopoulos' early work started being exhibited at local restaurants, and he began selling his work in the French Quarter.[3]

The architecture of New Orleans serves as an inspiration in James Michalopoulos' work

He has served as the official artist of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival six times. Michalopoulos' collectable festival posters have featured Dr. John, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, and Aaron Neville.[2][3]

He is also a sculptor, with public art works on display in New Orleans. He started working in sculpture in the 2000s. Michalopoulos first worked with wood and then proceeded to work in steel due to the ease of use compared to wood.[3] His abstract work, Mother Cluster, from 2012, is exhibited on Veterans Memorial Boulevard and sits near a 16-foot tall George Rodrigue sculpture of the Blue Dog. Mother Cluster consists of three pieces of different sizes, up to 40 feet tall, and was funded by art collectors Henry and Pat Shane. The sculptures estimated worth is $425,000.[4]

Michalopoulos' work is held in the collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.[3]


His oil paintings are colorful and feature "exaggerated viewpoints and skewed perspectives." He uses palette knives in his work, which helps provide intense color and texture.[1] Michalopoulos can complete an oil painting within two to three days. He leaves "completed" paintings in his studio for weeks and continues to add to paintings as he feels is necessary. Works are then sent to art galleries. At gallery openings, he has brought his palette to touch up paintings on the spot. When Michalopoulos painted Dr. John in New York City for the 1998 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, painting 10-12 studies of the musician and painting three or four versions. They selected the best of the paintings and Michalopoulos worked on the painting until he felt it was complete.[3] When painting singer Aaron Neville, he used photographs of the singer to create the portrait painting titled "Heart Song".[2][5] The painting was inspired by the voice and work of Neville and Neville's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire."[6]

Restaurant and beverage business[edit]

Michalopoulos owns Celebration Distillation, a company that makes Old New Orleans Rum.[3] Michalopoulos started the distillery in 1995. The company makes a white rum, gold rum, and "Cajun Spice," the later which is aged 10 years. As of 2012, it was the only rum distillery in New Orleans and the oldest in the contiguous United States making premium rum. The distillery offers public tours.[7]

Further reading[edit]

  • Michalopoulos, James. Michalopoulos. New Orleans: Cattywompus Press (1997). ISBN 0965955400.


  1. ^ a b c Sasser, Bill. "James Michalopoulos". Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c MacCash, Doug. "James Michalopoulos discusses the 2013 Jazz Fest poster depicting Aaron Neville". Entertainment. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Faure, Stephen. "James Michalopoulos: Adventures in Painting". Inside Northside. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  4. ^ MacCash, Doug. "James Michalopoulos sculpture on Veterans Boulevard will be completed Thursday". Arts. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  5. ^ MacCash, Doug. "Jazz Fest 2013 poster features Aaron Neville by James Michalopoulos". Entertainment. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Boyce, Emma. "Painting Aaron Neville: Jazzfest Poster Artist James Michalopoulos talks 'Heart Song'". NOLA Defender. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Abbott, Glen. "Take a tour of Old New Orleans Rum, a hidden gem in Gentilly". NOLA Vie. NOLA Media Group. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 

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