It may be the middle of February, but our wintertime blues have melted away in the color and warmth of Pittsburgh’s Most Colorful Landmark – Randyland. What is Randyland? It is the home of artist Randy Gilson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s North Side. And the outside is open to the public.
Greeted at the gate by a life-sized cutout of the artist beside a rainbow “Open” sign and a blue lion in a Santa hat, we entered through the Welcome Wall to Randyland.
In precisely one minute after entering Randyland, we started to realize that the art surrounding us mirrors the artist who created it. We had the pleasure of meeting Randy, who is a warm, friendly, and eccentric person. Even his paint-splattered clothes are another piece of art that makes you smile.
When he bought his property, it was extremely run-down and surrounded by abandoned and disheveled homes. It cost him $10,000 on a credit card to buy the building in 1995.
Randy started his art prior to purchasing the property after he saw lots of garbage, homes in disrepair, and negative attitudes in his neighborhood. He created 800 mini gardens around the area, countless vegetable gardens, and a handful of parks. His project started from buying whiskey barrels with his $1,000 savings (that he collected from his job as a waiter) that he filled with flowers and shrubs to place in front of abandoned homes. He is credited with much of the area’s revitalization. It is not uncommon for Randyland to have 200+ visitors per day!
Randy faced many trials growing up as the son of a single mother who struggled to put a roof over the heads of her six children. He recognizes his trials for turning him into the person he is today. He is one of the most positive and inspiring people I have ever met.
As we walked around Randyland, Randy had open conversation with all of his visitors. He explained that sometimes people come to Randyland feeling down, but they leave with smiles on their faces. He is a spokesperson for the power of positivity and color. He encouraged everyone to help with taking pictures for one another. He pointed to a group of Europeans who breezed in earlier that day and decided to help him with a new project. You can tell that Randy has a gift for making people smile and that he is one of those really good eggs whose life mission is to uplift others.
To say that Randy is a huge advocate of recycling is an overwhelming understatement. Randy’s art is made from recycled materials (and a few deeply discounted items such as $2 gallons of paint). Most of his art comes from items that he finds or has been given by others. He is often surprised by treasures that turn up in his gardens from his guests. He is proud of his ability to turn trash into art.
How do I see Randyland’s message? Be happy with who you are. Celebrate peace, love, and joy.
And now for the best part of the post – a window into Randy’s creations.
Randy may be the hands-down best walking advertisement for Bicycle Heaven (the world’s largest bicycle museum and shop) that there ever was. I guarantee he brought it up 15 times in 15 minutes, so it’s only right to give Bicycle Heaven a shout-out in this post. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by and ask Randy about other places he thinks you should visit.
The art is constantly changing as Randy is always creating and adding new items to the space. He has plans for the future including a café serving a multitude of pies! The next time you are in Pittsburgh, PA – stop by! With a suggested donation of $1.00, it’s a place you can’t afford to miss.