- Michael Bailey
- Friends of The Fun Farm hope to find a forever home for "Gene's Pole."
Gene Carsey, Jr. was loved by many. This became exceedingly apparent while talking to his close and long-time friend, Michael Bailey. As Bailey looked back on time spent with nothing but palpable admiration, one thing became clear: honoring his memory had become a common, communal goal among those who knew him.
Carsey, the eccentric artist behind The Fun Farm—also known as The Funny Farm, a roadside attraction about 5 miles north of Bend, spent years of his life turning his small piece of personal paradise into a whacky, whimsical safe haven for those seeking an escape from the blandness of day-to-day life. Bailey described the farm as nothing short of magical.
"He had a bowling ball tree and a bowling ball garden," he explained. "The Wizard of Oz was playing on a loop on a tiny television inside of a doll house. There was a giant mural on the roof of the barn that could only be seen from above."
When Carsey passed away last year, he left The Fun Farm to 18 of his closest friends, including Bailey. For the past several months, Bailey has been trying to find a home for one particular piece of art, a 25- to 30-foot vertical sculpture known as "Gene's Pole."
"There's a unique piece of art that has stood sentinel over the parking lot at the farm for many years," explained Bailey. "I finally got approval from the executor of Gene's estate for the donation of the piece, if I can find it a home." Bailey explained that he had reached out to Art in Public Places, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing permanent art installations to public places throughout the City of Bend.
"I would admittedly like to see this creation of his installed in a roundabout in his memory," said Bailey. "But it's not only because he was a good friend. I would like to see him and his crazy dream remembered and honored in this way because of his contribution to Central Oregon by way of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Gene was an openly gay man; a publicly gay man, long before being gay was accepted. He was incredibly brave in my opinion. I'm 58 and have lived here since 1976. The attitude toward LGBTQ+ inclusion here may still have a long way to go, but it's difficult to communicate just how far this place has come in the last 40 or so years. Gene had something to do with that, and I hope his contributions will be remembered."
Marcele Trujillo, project coordinator for AiPP, explained that the guidelines put in place by the organization didn't quite match up with Bailey's request. "Artists apply by a deadline, and the AiPP Committee reviews each entry by looking at their complete body or work, level of artistic excellence, experience working in large-scale sculptures, interactivity, innovative qualities, originality, durability of materials, the artist's inspiration for the specific location, project budget, resume, photographs and the ability to enhance a particular natural landscape or enliven a specific public space," she explained. "The artist must complete stamped engineering drawings and receive a building permit before they can start fabrication. The start-to-finish process typically takes one to one-and-a-half years."
Thus, the search for a home for "Gene's Pole" continues.
"Gene was all about inclusivity. His place became a place for anybody and everybody to enjoy," concluded Bailey. "This piece deserves a home. It would be such a great memorial for Gene. He was always working towards the place that we've finally come to now."