I’ve been to England (home of the Angles), to Scotland (home of the Scots), and to Ireland (home of the Irish), but I’d never been to Randyland until last month. You’d think it’d be the home of the Randys, but it’s not.
If your name is Randy, you get in free. But then everybody gets in free. The founder was once homeless.
Randyland T-shirts are available for $20, but there’s no one to take your money. You pick out a shirt and put your payment in a collection box. Or don’t. I did. (I’d never defraud the founder of my country!)
Randyland is one of the top ten tourist attractions in Pittsburgh, along with the Andy Warhol museum, the John Heinz History museum, the Bicycle Heaven museum, Point State Park, and the Incline (a tram up to Mt. Washington).
Randyland is an outdoor art museum displaying “found object art” and is regarded as one of America’s most colorful public art landmarks. By the way, “found object art” came into vogue following the French artist Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 exhibit of Fountain, a standard urinal purchased from a hardware store and displayed resting on its side on a pedestal. I’m guessing Andy Warhol was inspired by that piece.
Randyland is a phantasmagoria. Flamingoes, mannequins, saloon signage, bird baths, old trumpets, trombones, tubas, tricycles, pogo sticks, etc., etc, etc. If I listed even one-tenth of their items, I would use up my 400 word limit right here.
Randy Gilson was born in 1957 in Homestead, just outside Pittsburgh. He moved to the disreputable, derelict Northside in 1982 and took up guerrilla gardening. He and his cohorts planted 800 street gardens and 50 vegetable gardens in vacant lots.
And then in 1995 he used his credit care to purchase a drab building for $10,000. He painted it bright yellow and added murals galore and began furnishing his yard with “upcycled” stuff. It was crazy, chaotic, and beautiful. And inspiring.
Imagination at work.
Neighbors began transforming the neighborhood one house, one block at a time.
When you step into Randyland you can’t help smiling. You can’t help shaking your head in disbelief. And you can’t help reaching for your camera.
A reporter once asked Gilson if he could take one ride up the Incline with any Pittsburgher living or dead who would it be.
Randy replied: Andy Warhol.
Raise your hand if you’re surprised.