In Memory of Dumpster Diver Randy Dalton: The Blue Grotto

Last fall we introduced you to the art-filled home and fabulous gardens of Philadelphia Dumpster Diver Randy Dalton and his longtime partner Michael Martin Mills.

16_02_10 15 Michael & Randy 8560(Michael Martin Mills,  left,  and Randy Dalton in their always summery dining room.)

And,  yes,  you can still tour their house and garden on our website,  and read the blog post about them here.


But Randy had a magical surprise up his always blue sleeve – one we planned to interview him about later this year:   His Blue Grotto art environment.

16_02_10 1 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7495(Randy’s Blue Grotto contains hundreds of blue lights,  sculptures,  found objects, 
photos and more,  in support of his  “Do Blue!”  campaign for the arts)

Then everything changed:   Randy passed away on Friday, Feb. 5,  after suffering a stroke and characteristically donating his organs to keep others alive.

16_02_10 3 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7500

And so we’re sharing this wonderful treasure with you now.

16_02_10 2 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7533   16_02_10 4 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7559(Randy’s fun,  found-object man lounges on a chair at right.)


Spurred on by Congress’s attempt to cut national arts funding following a controversial Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit organized in Philadelphia,  Randy has been urging people to “Do Blue!” in support of Philadelphia arts and arts funding since 1989.

16_02_10 5 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7536

His on-going conceptual art campaign urges people to wear blue,  display blue lights (including pool lights visible to passing airplanes),  and create blue art.

16_02_10 6 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7504

Over the years,  he’s designed and given away thousands of blue buttons – including the one he’s wearing in the photograph at top.

16_02_10 7 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7508    16_02_10 8 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7554


But Randy’s biggest blue achievement is arguably his fabulous Blue Grotto,  a “studio/exhibition/gathering space” housed in the basement of the Community Education Center,  in West Philadelphia’s Powelton Village section.

16_02_10 9 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7529(The Blue Grotto set up to welcome a Philadelphia
Dumpster Diver meeting last October.)

Randy has been a volunteer at the non-profit performing arts center since 1977,  doing everything from serving on the board,  to organizing exhibits,  to stripping paint from yards and yards – and yards – of paneling.

16_02_10 10 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7517   16_02_10 11 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7553(Delightfully inventive Philadelphian Ben Franklin, right, shares space
with photos of the Dumpster Divers and their imaginative art.)

And as the center’s resident artist,  his blue environment has grown into pure,  inspiring magic.


As Randy’s Do Blue! campaign entered its 27th year,  he never lost his enthusiasm for it,  for art – or for life.

  16_02_10 12 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7562        16_02_10 13 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7563

(“Lend an ear.  Lend a hand.”  Get it?  Randy framed his  Do Blue!  manifesto
in corn ears and old gloves.)

16_02_10 16 Randy Dalton DC_8522(Randy’s pool installation sends the words “ART” or “EARTH” up to passing
airplanes in blue lights.   Now he’s sending blue light down to all of us….)


So wear a little blue today in Randy Dalton’s honor.  And remember:

16_02_10 14 Randy Dalton Blue Grotto CM_7566

With love to Randy and Michael –

Kate & Dave

3 thoughts on “In Memory of Dumpster Diver Randy Dalton: The Blue Grotto

  1. Last time I saw R was when Bread and Puppet Theater school bus parked in Powelton, and R was shooting pix. I remember him, there. I lived there. Is my memory still clear of his cute face?


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