Pittsburgh's Most Colorful Landmark
If you're ever strolling down Arch Avenue on the Northside, you'll be hard pressed to miss it, a whimsical looking home with a 40 ft high mural of brilliantly colored ladybugs, butterflies, dinosaurs and more. It's Randyland, and it all started a little over 30 years ago when artist, Randy Gilson, moved into the neighborhood.
Gilson fell in love with the architecture of the Northside, even though it was a bit of a rough neighborhood. With many empty lots littered with garbage, neighbors not getting along and a lack of neighborhood pride, he thought that he needed to do something himself.
He dipped into his savings from his job as a waiter and began cleaning up the neighborhood, starting with the litter and planting hundreds of mini gardens along the streets and empty lots. With one thousand dollars, he bought whiskey barrels filling them with shrubbery and flowers and placing them in front of empty houses and lots, and that's when the neighborhood began to change.
Over the years, Gilson created many pieces of street art, in addition to 800 gardens, 50 vegetable gardens and 8 parks. Doing all of this on a shoestring budget taught him how to reuse materials.
In 1995, Gilson purchased a dilapidated, abandoned building on his credit card and began turning it into an expression of art, "So when I bought the building, I thought well why not use the same ideas? I could recycle paint, wood and things I find in the alley ways. So I started applying these ides into this building and turning it into a giant outdoors art gallery," said Gilson. The property which was later dubbed by a friend, “Randyland.”
As much as Gilson has done in the neighborhood, he couldn't have done it alone. "As I kept going from one project onto the next, more and more people joined me, pitched in, and began to take pride in the neighborhood. The more people we affected, the more I realized that I have so much more to give."
Today Randyland continues to attract both tourists and locals. The property's courtyard is open on most days throughout the warmer months and is free to the public.
"There are sophisticated, unique and well-run cultural institutions here."