After Randyland’s namesake loses partner, friends chip in with crowdfunding |

After Randyland’s namesake loses partner, friends chip in with crowdfunding

Joyce Hanz


Randy Gilson has lost the love of his life.

His partner of more than 20 years, David Paul Francis “Mac” McDermott, died from prostate cancer on Jan. 10.

“Mac’s in Heaven now,” Gilson said.

Co-creators of the Randyland outdoor art exhibit, McDermott and Gilson have been a fixture of the North Side community and Mexican War Streets neighborhood for decades.

Fans and friends of Randyland on Arch Street are raising money via a GoFundMe account started this month by Daniel Haas, Mexican War Streets Society program chair. The purpose is to help Gilson with various expenses.

“We want Randy to know we are there for him,” Haas said. “We wanted to highlight someone that has given so much to the community and someone who has touched so many lives throughout the world. We also want to continue the message of Randyland.”

Haas set a goal of$10,000 for the GoFundMe.

Haas settled on that figure after researching the average funeral cost in the country.

“Randy has had a year-plus to try and prepare for (Mac’s death), but you can never really prepare. I hope we reach the goal, and this fundraiser was created to help him out with any type of expenses,” Haas said.

More than $4,300 has already been raised.

The GoFundMe link has been shared hundreds of times on social media and is peppered with positive messages of support and love aimed at Gilson from fans of Randyland.

Gilson,61, met McDermott during the 1990s in Pittsburgh. They moved in together within weeks.

The couple co-created Randyland in 1995 — with Randy as the uber-positive and extroverted face of Randyland and McDermott content to stay behind-the-scenes.

“It was this building that brought us together,” said Gilson, referencing Randyland. “God put us together and we bought this building — it was going to be torn down — with a credit card and 25 years later here we were. We were 50/50 and now Mac is in heaven.”

According to online Allegheny County records, the property sold for $11,300.

For Gilson, continuing Randyland without McDermott by his side is his new normal.

He is currently on a personal leave from his job as server at a downtown Pittsburgh hotel.

“The only person that I ever truly, truly, truly loved is gone,” Gilson said.

He greets thousands of Randyland visitors annually with hugs, laughter, a warm welcome and positive words.

As a child, Gilson spruced up overgrown spaces in Homestead as a hobby. He eventually earned money cutting lawns.

He would later create the Old Allegheny Garden Society — resulting in about 800 pop-up natural green spaces made of trees, parks and vegetable gardens throughout Pittsburgh.

Gilson credits his mother for his unwavering positive attitude.

“She always told me to do good things,” Gilson said.

He credits his struggles, saying they became his strengths, instilling a reuse, repurpose and recycle mindset.

Gilson, a self-professed “junk man,” recycled and repurposed the Randyland grounds for decades with McDermott.

Randyland is regarded as one of the most colorful public art spaces in the country and has been featured in numerous national publications.

The bricks of Randyland were gathered from nearby homes being torn down. Visitors from around the world have stopped by Randyland to soak in the vibrant murals, oddities, sculptures and get a dose of happiness from the ever-changing art space.

Future plans for Randyland include making it a nonprofit and offering an outdoor seating and entertainment area. Gilson said he would love to expand Randyland to the first floor of the home, where he often paints.

McDermott was cremated and a spring “Mac Day” celebration event (the date has yet to be determined) is in the works, according to Randyland co-director Foo Conner.

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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