Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

After 23 Years, Randyland Owners Set for Dream Vacation

Their toll-free exhibit has served as a cultural Pittsburgh icon for years, and now, people are giving back to the founders of this beloved institution.

photo by Food Conner|Jekko


In 1995, Pittsburgh artist Randy Gilson and his partner Mac created one of Pittsburgh’s most colorful landmarks, “Randyland.”

The unmistakable North Side courtyard is a garden full of recycled oddities that have been repainted to turn the space into “the happiest place in Pennsylvania.”

Creating the attraction in Pittsburgh has consumed their time and energy, and the two never took a vacation, despite being together for more than 23 years. So when Mac was diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer in 2016, Randyland fan Tim Martini put together a GoFundMe for the couple’s dream vacation to the western United States.

Donations from Randyland fans around the world totaled more than $18,000, crushing the $10,000 stretch goal. The two plan to visit the Grand Canyon, and walk along a California beach for Mac to see the ocean one last time.

Initially, Gilson did not take the generosity well.

“I was mad as hell,” Gilson says. “I don’t like presents. I stopped going to people’s houses on Christmas and holidays. Everything I do, I do to give away.”

But after consulting with Mac, Gilson embraced the gift. Foo Conner, social media coordinator and co-director of Randyland, says Gilson’s apprehension stems from the fact that he’s more used to providing for others than accepting charity.

“Randy gives a lot of love out, and he never asks for anything back,” Conner says.

Gilson says that after Mac passes, Randyland will remain a symbol of their relationship. Despite his name being on the marquee, he says the space was a combined effort from him and Mac.

“Randyland has never been Randyland. It’s always been our land.”

Much more shy than the eccentric Randy, Mac would often tell guests he ran into that he was simply “the gardener.” Conner says he made an extra effort to tend to the plants following his diagnosis.

“(Mac) said, ‘I want to make sure the plants are taken care of. I’m not going to be here this summer,’” Conner says.

The loss will be massive for the now 60-year-old Gilson, who met Mac in 1994 at a festival Downtown, but he’s ready for whatever comes.

“It’s gonna be sad when he goes, but I’m strong as hell,” he says. “I’m gonna carry on Mac’s legacy.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says corned beef inside an import business, Sichuan smashed eggplants, smoked chicken wings and a cornbread dessert have his attention.

How to Celebrate the Moon Landing Anniversary in Pittsburgh

To celebrate Apollo 11’s golden anniversary, several local events are set to take place, from film screenings to new exhibits and more.

5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

PM Editoral Intern Ellie Pesetsky shares some of her favorite up-cycled furniture and home decor stores in and around Pittsburgh.

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Wedding bells will be chiming for multiple couples this weekend … and it’s taking place at Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

Pop Culture Pop Up Bars Are Here to Stay

Nintendo-themed Level Up is in Market Square for another week, but if you miss it, you can catch the Pokémon-themed bar coming this fall.

How Scary is the New Steel Curtain Coaster at Kennywood?

The ride claims records for the world’s tallest looping coaster and tallest inversion; it also has more inversions than any coaster in North America. We rode it this morning. Here's what we have to say.

The 400-Word Review: Point Blank

Netflix's action thriller is forgettable, but serves well as a quick throwback.

Pittsburgh Marks the First Stop of the New Whiskey Rebellion Trail

Think the story of American whiskey begins in Kentucky? Think again.

Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

It hasn’t gone according to the original script, but the Pirates have found a way to stay relevant — and may yet be capable of finishing what they started.

The 400-Word Review: Stuber

There are laughs in the new buddy comedy, but they're dragged down by bad decisions.

Cornbread, A New Soul Food Restaurant, Opens in an Unexpected Location

Adenah Bayoh and Elzadie “Zadie” Smith bring their fast-casual concept to the West Mifflin Walmart.

The Park After Dark

Kennywood’s “Night Rider” tickets may be the best bet for many visitors.

The Best Tips for Finding a Wedding Photographer

There’s no need to stress about finding the best photographer thanks to these helpful tips from local professionals.

Pittsburgh Bartenders Bring the Garden to the Glass

Bartenders are using centrifugal force, tinctures and more to amplify and preserve the season's harvest.

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Amanda Lee began painting glasses in her basement to help pay for her college education. Today, she ships her products across the globe from a new, shabby-chic warehouse and gift shop.