Twice a month, Arthur Jones, 34, dons his overalls and gets down to business. With a pocket designated for his thermometer, and using tools he forged himself, he lights the grill. Cooking is one of his great loves, and when he's not barbecuing, he taps into his heritage and cooks food like kibby, his favorite Lebanese lamb dish that's similar to American meatloaf.
The native Jacksonian has never wanted to do just one thing. He left Jackson in 1993 to attend the University of Dallas, starting a double major in biology and philosophy. But then he spent a semester in Rome, where his eyes were opened to European art and architecture. He studied Michelangelo and sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. When he returned to the states, he changed his major.
Jones ultimately obtained an art degree in sculpture at the University of Dallas before completing an architecture degree at Mississippi State in 2001.
"I liked sculpture for the same reason that I like architecture," he says. "It's all about planning and how things fit together."
Planning for beauty continues to motivate Jones today as he contemplates the revival of the Jackson downtown area and the endless possibilities for renovation and urban infill.
At JBHM Architects in Jackson, Jones collaborates with the contractors who work on his firm's plans. He likes being a problem solver. "I know each site that I work with so well that I don't mind dealing with work after hours," he says. "I'm not a workaholic, but I love what I do."
"The things that I like in the worldfood, family, musicthey're all here," Jones says regarding his return to Mississippi from Washington, D.C., in 2007 after working with architects there. Indeed, he's been able to keep his interest in metalwork alive by becoming a member of the Mississippi Forge Council.
"When you get a job, you get away from working with your hands," he says. Working with the blacksmiths helps him to combat that trend. He most enjoys observing the veteran blacksmiths and creating tools that he uses in cooking.
"I've made a lot of forks," he says, laughing. "And some barbecue tools."
His family's influence reaches past his food interests. At 12, he discovered an old harmonica at his grandparents' home, and one of his uncles later taught him harmonica technique and theory. Now, Jones plays with the Common Ground Blues Band.
Jones takes a holistic approach to balancing his work life and outside interests. "So much of my personal religion has to do with being from Jackson and living here. It's easy to be a part of something in Jackson. I'm comfortable here because of that," he says.