Bill O'Driscoll

Arts & Culture Reporter

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Most recently, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat.

Photo courtesy of City of Asylum.

During the coronavirus shutdown, most arts groups are exploring online programming. City of Asylum is rolling out what it calls the region’s first shared programming channel.

Lucy Hogg / Courtesy of ecco

Andy Warhol was one of 20th-century art’s great success stories. He was born in 1928 as Andrew Warhola, the son of working-class Eastern European immigrants in Pittsburgh, and improbably went on to wealth and global fame as almost a living embodiment of celebrity itself.

Ted Baumhauer

The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is an ambitious grassroots undertaking. Since 2014, it’s been a showcase for storytellers, theater troupes, musicians, and others from around the country and beyond, largely in borrowed and repurposed venues like coffeehouses, churches and even the back rooms of bars. 

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater

Normally this time of year, the New Hazlett Theater would be buzzing with activity, and theater, dance or music nearly every night of the week – and even during the day.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Wednesday, April 8, saw probably the nicest weather since the coronavirus shutdown began: sunny and topping 70 degrees. At about 5:30 p.m. that day, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail was packed, at least for the mile or so along the Allegheny River between Heinz Field and the Veterans’ Bridge.

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A massive federal program to aid small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic still isn’t helping the smallest, or those owned by minorities, critics in Pittsburgh and elsewhere said.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Sonja Finn closed her East Liberty restaurant, Dinette, the day after Allegheny County reported its first case of COVID-19.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Earth Day

Since 1970, April has been the month for Earth Day. But while the coronavirus pandemic has pushed Pittsburgh’s official, in-person Earth Day festivities to August, organizers have cultivated a virtual alternative for collectively celebrating nature and the need to protect it.

Photo courtesy of Knotzland

Just weeks ago, experts were still debating whether masking in public truly helped slow the spread of the coronavirus. Then, on April 3, came the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that anyone leaving home wear a facemask. In Pennsylvania, the order came from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office the same day. Now masks are practically a mandatory accessory.

Courtesy of Off Their Plate

A month ago, the coronavirus shutdown halted dine-in service at restaurants. Many pressed on with takeout. For the Vandal, a gourmet spot in Lawrenceville, that strategy didn’t work out, says co-owner Joey Hilty. After a few days, the Vandal laid off all seven employees and shuttered entirely.

Photo by Ashley Anderson / Office of Public Art

In normal times, theater-goers, music fans, and dance aficionados sit elbow-to-elbow in darkened halls for hours. Art-lovers crowd into gallery openings, spearing cheese cubes off plates and sipping merlot poured from the same bottle, one after the other.

It’s been less than a month since nonessential businesses shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, but already the familiar mingling that accompanied art experiences seems almost surreally a thing of the past.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

No one wants to be laid off, but the situation is even worse for tipped workers like restaurant servers and bartenders. In most states, including Pennsylvania, such workers receive a subminimum wage that’s a fraction of what even a minimum-wage employee gets.

Photo by Jorge Santiago / Courtesy of Pantheon

“For me, it began with the mouse poop,” writes Sarah Menkedick. She was pregnant, living in an Ohio cabin that had mice. 

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – and stay-home orders from government officials – many people are not leaving their houses, let alone booking hotel rooms. Still, the drop in occupancy rates for hotels in the Pittsburgh region has been swift and staggering.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Independent bookstores have been an unexpected comeback story of the past decade. Since the 2008 recession, their numbers have grown nationally by about 50 percent, according to industry statistics – something most observers wouldn’t have predicted in the age of Amazon. Pittsburgh alone now has a dozen or more such bookshops.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

To get some sense of how hard the coronavirus shutdown has hit service-industry workers in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Virtual Tip Jar. The initiative to help patrons funnel funds to unemployed and underemployed workers was launched March 16. As of this past Friday, less than two weeks later, it had about 7,000 names.

KEITH SRAKOCIC / AP

The furnaces at Pittsburgh Glass Center have gone cold. It’s a small but poignant metaphor for an arts scene in almost complete shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo by Cheryl DeBono Michaelangelos / Courtesy of Flatiron Books

Eliese Goldbach didn’t start out with “steel-mill worker” as a life-goal.

Growing up in Cleveland, in the 1990s, she wanted to be a nun.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Four days after the Braddock Carnegie Library temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, executive director Vicki Vargo, who was working from home, stopped by to pick up the mail and a few other things. Outside the landmark building’s front door stood a library regular.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Governor Wolf’s order to suspend for two weeks all dine-in service at bars and restaurants in the state to slow the spread of the new coronavirus is already taking its toll on service workers. Local restaurateurs report decreased hours and layoffs because of the rule, which limits restaurants to take-out service.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

One of the first arts groups in Pittsburgh to cancel events because of the COVID-19 pandemic was Bricolage Production Company. About 2 p.m. Thursday, the theater troupe announced it had canceled this weekend’s installment of its long-running storytelling series WordPlay.

Photo by Kitoko Chargois / Courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

“SKIN + Saltwater” is Staycee Pearl’s contribution to the new show by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. It’s a world premiere for the veteran choreographer, and also another significant first: Pearl is the first African-American woman to create a dance for the 51-year-old troupe.

The 18-minute work is part of PBT’s “Here + Now” program, which opens March 20, at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. That’s a bit more than a year since Pearl was offered the opportunity, in a phone call from PBT executive director Harris Ferris.

Chad Hunt

Dr. Azra Raza has many stories to tell about cancer and its treatment.

Image courtesy of Scott Andrew

Joan Crawford was one of Hollywood’s top stars for decades. 

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Glass Center

Glassmaking has certainly changed since humans started doing it, about four millennia ago. But while making art from glass is still a fairly artisanal process, that’s changing, too, as seen in a new exhibit at Pittsburgh Glass Center.

Courtesy of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet has grown a lot since Maria Caruso founded it two decades ago. In recent years, Caruso has increased focus on her solo work.

Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh

In the West, it’s called “microtonal music.” Elsewhere in the world, it’s just called “music.”

Cover art y Mequitta Ahuja / Courtesy of Deesha Philyaw

“The world is not tender with Black women,” write Deesha Philyaw and Vanessa German. “And we are not always tender with ourselves, or with each other. Pittsburgh, in particular, is not known for tenderness where we are concerned.”

David Bachman Photography for Pittsburgh Opera

Just like the news these days, the new opera “The Last American Hammer” is more than a little absurd, and more than a little tragic.

Courtesy of the artist

The impacts of climate change – what many environmentalists now call “the climate crisis” – are so vast they can be hard to grasp. Australia ablaze, coastlines disappearing beneath the sea, and climate refugees fleeing drought, famine and flood are just the start of a process that’s already reshaping human civilization.

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