Written and photographed by Paul Wolf
Ever have the itch to take on a challenge, one that bugs you until you see the final result?
That’s how Chris Myers feels every time he looks at Jackson.
“As an architect, I feel the need to do stuff,” he explains. “I see things that bother me, but I understand the path from problem to solution.”
The north Mississippi native made it to the capital city by way of Mississippi State University’s architecture program, a plan his mother suggested.
“I called my mom just this morning asking her why I went down this path out of high school. She told me she thought that everybody who became an architect played with Legos as a kid (like I did). She said, ‘You really liked building stuff and were good at math.’ She felt I had a good balance of right brain – left brain to do that job. I had some artistic ability and was good with cognitive reasoning. It’s just what I did.”
Without much of a formal artistic background beyond choir and band, Myers thought he might end up in music, but architecture sounded more reasonable.
Banking on a whole new set of friends and a whole new culture beyond his rural upbringing, Myers was excited by the “vastness of knowledge” the program would bring. “It held my interest,” he says. “Interesting people, weird and artistic people, people I had never been around before – I stuck with it for some reason.”
Jackson shaped Myers’s world. Spending his fifth year of school here, the city had enough density and culture to satisfy his craving, giving him things he wanted from a bigger city, yet still being close to home.
A job at Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects and Engineers came available right out of school in 2001, a firm where Myers was recently named a principal.
If he was to settle in — and not seek out bigger city dreams as he had once thought he might, Myers would need to get involved and make friends. And so he did, becoming a volunteer for the annual Crossroads Film Festival. That involvement also gave him the itch to participate in making his city better, to do something more.
“I felt a need, a mission to use my talent and skill to help the city, to do good and make things better instead of just being here.”
As project manager for the second phase of the Mississippi History and Civil Rights museums, now under construction, Myers is in the lead following exteriors construction, coordinating exhibits and other work that remains to finish in time for the December 2017 opening. He calls it the “biggest and most important project I have ever worked on.”
“This project is important to the city in so many ways,” he says, hoping it represents a “possible shift” toward driving that kind of work to his office over the next few years.
Myers says his drive to improve Jackson is a credit to proper upbringing and an inner sense of civic duty.
“I’m certainly not somebody like Chane (Swell-O-Phonic, FFT) or Nina Parikh (Mississippi Film Office Deputy Director and Crossroads Film Fest Director) who I think lead things,” he explains. “But I’m very good at being involved. I don’t mind working hard for goals bigger than myself. To me, it’s everyone’s duty. If we all did that, the city would be a much different place.”
Myers’s hometown pride can also be tied into his inner architect.
“Our job [as an architect] is to take the client problem and come up with a solution. It requires holding things within a box, exercising a lot of control. The problem is large but the parameters — time, money, location, materials — make it smaller. An architect tends to seek to create order in the world around them and our skill sets tend to lend themselves to actually making that happen (more so than other professions), I believe.”
As he explains this discipline, Myers is bothered by something he spots out of the corner of his eye. “I look and see this gravel [piled by storm runoff]: I should pull in here and sweep it up. I should come fix this. It’s broken. I can spend a half day doing it, and it would make me feel better and make the community better.”
In other words, it’s the little things others don’t see that make a difference in big ways.
“It’s the reason I like a clean house,” he says. “It’s not because I like the process; it’s because I like the end result. When things look good and feel right, everyone experiences it better. And you don’t know why. But we, as architects, understand why.”
In a city as small as Jackson, Myers believes, you can be the architect of change. “If you want to do something that’s not being done, you’re the person to do it. If you don’t, there’s probably not someone who cares as much as you do.”
Myers’s advice? “Find something here you like and enjoy doing — going to see movies, creating art, going to events — and give up some of your time to make those things better here.” He recounts his experiences volunteering with Fondren’s First Thursday: “Thousands of people show up, but 95 percent of those show up to consume. Consume less, help more — that’s a good change to me.”
Married for the last five years, Myers and his wife Rachel have a son, Eli, who just turned two. He says his son makes him look further ahead.
“We have someone else growing up in 15 or 16 years. I want him to want to live here — to enjoy living here. Sure, go out and see the world, but come back and make this place better. And not just Jackson, but Mississippi. I hope he has these same urges to make the world better, to make the city better — to make the community better, wherever he lives.”
Waving City Pride
A self-described “flag nerd,” one of Myers’s other passions is flags, specifically, the Jackson flag.
“When I was a kid, I somehow ended up with this flyer, an 8.5 x 11 folded thing, that had every nations’ flag on it. I was really into that and learned a lot.
About ten years ago, I learned that Jackson had a flag. I Googled and found it on a Wikipedia page and thought, ‘What is this?’ I started asking around and no one seemed to know about it.”
Adopted after a 1992 contest during Mayor Kane Ditto’s administration (one that attracted over a thousand entries, most of them from local school children) this green, white, yellow and blue design was formally introduced to Jackson as its new official symbol on January 7, 1993.
“To me, the Jackson flag is something we can all stand under, put [a sticker] on our car and know who we are. I want people to know about it and want people to wear it.”
Purchase Jackson flagÂ shirts, stickers, cell phoneÂ cases, mugs and more at jxnflg.com.