Randyland

The courtyard at Randyland in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a colorful, eclectic wonderland.

“You should have as many journeys as there are branches on a tree and as many dreams as there are leaves at the end of those branches. There is nothing that we can’t attain.”

Randyland

It is the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

It is a “Magic Kingdom.”

It is Disneyland.

It is Randyland too.

We visited on a Friday morning and parked right near the gate.

Admission to Randyland, like the parking, was free.

Besides the three of us, there was a crowd of one.

I was already feeling the happy and the magic.

To understand Randyland, one must first have a brief background about Randy.

Randy Gibson grew up in Homestead, Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t a nurturing homestead.

Randy grew up with five siblings in a broken home, failed several grades and was called “garbage, ugly, stupid, white trash, dadless, poor, dumb and punk.” He didn’t listen.

Undaunted, Randy Gibson discovered a mentor that inspired him named ... Randy Gibson.

He used his own visual and spatial talents (you know, the intelligence that is not measured with mandated standardized tests) on a derelict neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Equal parts Johnny Appleseed and Recyclone, Randy combined his gardening skills and repurposing expertise to create a public park that has spread his message of “love, joy, happiness and understanding.” Blooms are alongside mannequin heads in this art museum oasis; a flea market flower show; a Rose Bowl Parade float at ramming speed that collided with Angola’s spring clean up and citywide garage sales. Randy is the MacGyver of recycling and reusing.

Randyland has the paint. I once painted a two-story four-square house. It required primer, two coats and four different colors. It took me all summer to complete the job. Stairs at Randyland appear to have more shades and hues than all of those sample cards at the Sherwin-Williams store. Railings looked like an assembly line at the M&M factory. You know the paint slogan and logo, the huge dumping bucket, “Cover the Earth?” After strolling Randyland, I think that is Randy’s mission statement ever since he starting brushing latex.

There is no costumed mouse at Randyland. There is however a sand play area for the children with plenty of plastic rats.

Randyland forces one to ask questions: “Why aren’t we watering, feeding and weeding our dreams?”

There are no rides. Instead, “Randyland is a place for renewing, replanting, recreating and reimagining what we can be.”

Ever purchase a T-shirt at that other happiest-place-on-earth-magic kingdom? What did it cost? I paid $20 and it was on an honor system with a drop box.

IF YOU GO THERE:

Website: randy.land

1501 Arch St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Phone: 412–342–8152

Email: happiness@randy.land

Randyland is open from 10 a.m. to dusk.

If you are fortunate enough, you might just meet Randy painting or digging or opening your mind.

Paul Beckwith is an Angola Middle School teacher, an explorer and a writer who annually hones his skills at a workshop at Indiana State University through the Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellows.

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