The Funny Farm Family, one of the Art Center of Waco's more eclectic and iconic sculptures, turns 50 years old this year and the artist who made it, Austin's Bob Wade, plans to throw a party for it Saturday.
Wade, a McLennan Community College art instructor in 1968, assembled the family from metal transformers, ventilation piping and shell casings rescued from Melvin Lipsitz's Waco salvage yard. With the help of Waco workers, colleagues and students, he welded the pieces together, painted them in bright colors and shipped them to San Antonio for a HemisFair sculpture exhibition.
It was Wade's first public art installation and signalled what would become Wade trademarks over his career: equal parts of what? and whimsy, hard to ignore and a little provocative. Its installation at MCC caused some head-scratching and some joking - was the "Funny Farm" of the title the MCC faculty? - but not as much as some of Wade's later pieces.
Those included a two-story-tall cowboy boot, giant instrument-playing frogs on a Dallas nightclub roof and an Airstream trailer reworked as an Iguana-mobile - the type of work that helped make a college nickname "Daddy-O" stick as his professional middle name and which inspired the title "Too High, Too Wide and Too Long" for a documentary on him.
The public rededication/birthday ceremony takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday at the sculpture's location on the Art Center of Waco's grounds at 1300 College Drive.
Art Center staffers and board members hope to move the sculpture and its neighboring "Waco Door" by Robert Wilson to the center's planned downtown location at 701 S. Eighth Street along with other works from the center's Sculpture Garden.