Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Randyland

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PITTSBURGH - Tucked in the Mexican War Streets, a burst of color surprises visitors.

“Welcome to my humble home,” said Randy Gilson.  “This is the house made of junk and joy!  A lot of joy.  Yes!”

Gilson created Randyland, his home and an unconventional art museum.

He rescues objects from dumpsters and back alleyways, repurposes and repaints them into pieces designed to delight.

Even his property was saved from the garbage heap.

Gilson bought it in 1997 for 10 thousand dollars with a credit card.

“The weeds were up to here. Garbage. Drugs. Car parts.  Nobody wanted to live her,” he told Channel 11’s Peggy Finnegan. “ They were going to tear this bldg. down.  So I took out all the garbage and taught myself to paint.”

“He's a folk artist.  And his vision is really unique.  There will probably never be another Randyland in this country,” said neighbor Susan Larkin.

Larkin said Gilson’s impact started in the 80's when he placed barrels of flowers in front of homes, bringing beauty to a blighted area.

He moved on to abandoned lots, turning them into community gardens. 

Now decades later there are 800 street gardens, 80 community vegetable gardens and 8 small parks. 

What he started, others have taken over and maintained.

“It's like a giant Crayon box here, like paintball city happened,” he said.

Gilson said color is like a smile.

“It's the aura.  It's the heartbeat on the outside.  It's like when you see a house and there's a light on ,” he described. 

Larkin echoed those sentiments.

“It just give the aura and the attitude that this is a neighborhood where people care,  and they care because look how good it looks.  And this is a subtle kid of legacy that Randy really created,” she said.

Gilson uses the tips he makes as a waiter to pay for Randyland, and he hopes one day to turn it into a community coffee house.