Best Local Artist (2008)

Tom Jones

In the early morning hours of May 11, Houston lost a dear friend. Fifty-one-year-old Tom Jones, curator and spokesperson for the Art Car Museum, was basking in the glow of ­another successful Art Car Parade, chatting with friends outside the museum after the traditional Illuminated Cruise, when a drunk driver hit a parked car, which in turn hit Jones and pinned him under it. He later died at Ben Taub during surgery. Though he was intrinsic to daily operations at the Art Car ­Museum, as well as dedicated to his own pursuits as an artist and as a champion of the Art Car "lifestyle," Jones was probably best known for his trademark "Swamp Mutha," a 1982 Chevy Monte Carlo layered in ­provocative ­imagery and adorned with all ­manner of swampy ­critters. A symbol of the ­urban ­frontier, "Swamp Mutha" now ­symbolizes Jones's unique contribution to Houston's cultural ­history. A proponent of individuality to the end, one of his last statements on record, taped during a video interview before the 2008 Art Car Parade, summed up his work and hopefully his legacy. "Keep America's roads weird," he said. We'll sure try, Tom.