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Randyland is located in Pittsburgh
Location of Randyland in Pittsburgh
Established1995 (1995)
Location1501 Arch Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212
Coordinates40°27′29″N 80°00′35″W / 40.4579292°N 80.00973699999997°W / 40.4579292; -80.00973699999997
Visitors200,000+ (2019)[1]
FounderRandy Gilson
Nearest parkingStreet

Randyland is an art museum in the North Side section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is widely regarded as one of America's most colorful public art landmarks.[2][3] Randy Gilson is the founder of this museum, which showcases found object art.[4]

Randyland has played an important role in the cultural rejuvenation of Pittsburgh, with its neighbors City of Asylum and Mattress Factory.[5][6][7] Randyland has received international attention through viral listicles, and[8][9] is among the most photographed places on Instagram.[10]


Randy Gilson talking to visitors at Randyland

Randy Gilson was born in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Early in life he suffered from homelessness and poverty. He moved to Pittsburgh's Northside in 1982, where he was a community activist, planting over 800 street gardens and 50 vegetable gardens.[11] His guerrilla gardening planted vacant lots in Manchester, the Mexican War Streets, and surrounding neighborhoods.[12]

He bought the property that would become Randyland on a credit card for $10,000 in 1995.[13] Using upcycling, Gilson decorates his home with items such as mannequins, plastic dinosaurs and pink flamingos. The fences display murals with neighbors dancing and smiling.[14]

In late 2016, Gilson's partner David Paul Francis "Mac" McDermott was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.[15] Upon hearing the news, Randyland fans raised over $20,000 and sent Gilson and McDermott on their first vacation. The couple visited the Grand Canyon and Hollywood.[16] Afterwards, Gilson retired from his restaurant job to spend more time with the ailing McDermott. Following the announcement, Foo Conner joined Randyland as co-director.[11][15][17]

The neighborhood around the museum experienced explosive growth in 2016-2019.[18] Randyland itself reportedly doubled in attendance.[19] The courtyard was overhauled to accommodate the traffic. Under Conner's curation, the facility embraced being a selfie museum as a vibrant backdrop for photos.[20]

McDermott died on January 10, 2019.[19] As Gilson's partner, he was posthumously given the title of co-founder. Journalists noted that McDermott may have downplayed his role when alive but was a backbone of the museum.[21] Later that year, Randyland received the Mayor's Award for Public Art for 2019. Conner left the museum early 2020.[20]

Because it is outdoors, Randyland was one of the only art museums open in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic.[18] Gilson came out of retirement. The Courtyard was changed to a socially distanced playground throughout quarantine. Many of the original murals have been painted over.

As of 2022, Randyland is still a free and popular tourist attraction.[22][23]


In popular culture[edit]

  • The documentary The Spirit of Pittsburgh features Randy Gilson's gardening alongside Fred Rogers.[24]
  • The documentary Pursuing Happiness features Randy Gilson as one of the happiest people in America.[25]
  • When a blizzard postponed Guster's Pittsburgh concert, they instead recorded a viral music video in the alleyway near Randyland.[26][27]
  • Randy Gilson succeeded Rick Sebak as the Mardi Gras King of Pittsburgh.[28][29]
  • A teenager's "Summer Bucket List 2017", which included Randyland as a place to visit, went viral.[30][31]
  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown calls Randyland an essential for the "Perfect Day in Pittsburgh".[32]
  • The popular travel show Rediscovering America presented by Barstool Sports interviewed Randy Gilson at Randyland in their 2022 episode about Pittsburgh.


  • Mayor's Award for Public Art 2019[20]


  1. ^ O'Neill, Brian (April 16, 2017). "New York Times discovers Pittsburgh. Again". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  2. ^ Zorch, Laura (June 14, 2016). "How Randyland, Pittsburgh's Most Colorful Folk-Art Landmark, Came to Be". Thrillist.
  3. ^ Suter, Becky (July 19, 2017). "8 Reasons Pittsburgh Is The Best US City Getaway You've Never Thought Of". MTV UK.
  4. ^ "Randyland". Atlas Obscura. September 2, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  5. ^ Blackley, Katie (5 May 2022). "How the Mexican War Streets Got its Name". WESA. Retrieved 22 August 2022. The neighborhood struggled in the 1970s and 80s, dealing with blight and crime. But cultural organizations took notice, and opened places like The Mattress Factory, Randyland and the writer's refugee space City of Asylum.
  6. ^ Wright, Michelle (July 19, 2014). "Randyland brings a big splash of color to Pittsburgh". WTAE-TV.
  7. ^ Deto, Ryan (November 20, 2015). "Public Art Advocates and Officials Upset about County Gutting Public Art Funding". Pittsburgh City Paper.
  8. ^ Hunt, Katrina Brown (July 7, 2017). "The 20 Quirkiest Cities in America". Travel and Leisure Magazine.
  9. ^ "13 Fascinating Things You Can Only Do In Pennsylvania". Buzzfeed. May 1, 2017.
  10. ^ Axelrod, Joshua (July 12, 2017). "15 Most Instagrammable Spots". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. ^ a b Gravina, Lauri (August 8, 2007). "North Side artist follows pathway to his dream". NEXTPittsburgh.
  12. ^ Starr, Pamela (August 8, 2007). "North Side artist follows pathway to his dream". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  13. ^ Aupperlee, Aaron (July 20, 2014). "Save-the-map appeal generates $10K online to revitalize North Side artwork". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  14. ^ "Imagine 2005". Mattress Factory. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  15. ^ a b Taylor, Craig (March 31, 2017). "After 23 Years, Randyland Owners Set for Dream Vacation". Pittsburgh Magazine.
  16. ^ Compton, Julie (March 29, 2017). "Fans Give Back to Beloved Pittsburgh Artist and Dying Partner". NBC News.
  17. ^ O'Neill, Brian (October 5, 2017). "Brian O'Neill: Old journalist meets new journalist. Ain't that tweet..." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  18. ^ a b "In Your Neighborhood: Mexican War Streets". KDKA-TV. 19 August 2022. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  19. ^ a b Hayes, John (14 January 2019). "Obituary: David Paul Francis 'Mac' McDermott -- Had a role in creation of Randyland on North Side". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 22 August 2022. Reliable project manager who downplayed his role in creating Randyland
  20. ^ a b c Eberson, Sharon (18 June 2019). "Randyland 'therapy museum' honored with Mayor's Public Art Award". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  21. ^ "'Randyland' Raising Money After Loss Of Co-Creator". CBS News. 16 January 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  22. ^ Riggs, Shane (21 August 2022). "A hop, a skip and a colorful jump to Randyland". The Herald. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  23. ^ Sills, Joe (27 May 2022). "A guide to Pittsburgh, America's characterful cultural powerhouse". National Geographic. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  24. ^ The Spirit of Pittsburgh. WQED (TV). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1988. Event occurs at 15:00.
  25. ^ "Pursuing Happiness: The Search for the Happiest People in America". Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  26. ^ Adams, Steven (January 25, 2016). "Pop band Guster gets stuck in Pittsburgh during storm, plays show in North Side alley". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  27. ^ Mervis, Scott (January 25, 2016). "Guster goes viral with Dumpster Set on the North Side". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  28. ^ Strasburg, Stephanie (March 3, 2017). "In Focus: A very Northside Mardi Gras". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  29. ^ Crawly, Dave (February 22, 2017). "Randyland Owner To Be Crowned King Of North Side Mardi Gras". CBS Pittsburgh.
  30. ^ Cote, Rachel Vorona (July 16, 2017). "Let This Teen's Summer 2017 Bucket List Inspire You to Live Your Dreams". Jezebel.
  31. ^ Damour, Lisa (July 19, 2017). "What Should Parents Make of the 'Summer Bucket List 2017'?". New York Times.
  32. ^ Cranisky, Drew (October 18, 2017). "The Perfect Day in Pittsburgh". CNN.

External links[edit]