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.

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.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Big increases in attendance and full-time jobs marked the past five years on Pittsburgh’s arts scene. But the arts community needs to become more equitable and inclusive.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

“African American Art in the 20th Century,” a traveling exhibit of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, evokes the rich legacy left by black artists.

The show features works by 34 artists including such legends as Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, and the acclaimed artist and Pittsburgh native Renee Stout. It visits the Westmoreland Museum of American Art this Sunday through May 10.

Art by Mary Ethel McAuley / Courtesy of the University Art Gallery

The art exhibit “Mary Ethel McAuley: Behind the German Lines” will probably be most audiences’ introduction to a famed Pittsburgher of century ago. And a concurrent show at the University Art Gallery seeks to connect the dots between important women artists on the local scene generations apart.

Photo by Shayne Gray / Courtesy of Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

For centuries, perhaps millennia, storytellers have found the devil more interesting than the Lord. Among the more famous of them is John Milton, whose 17th-century epic poem “Paradise Lost” depicted Satan as so compelling that Romantic poet and artist William Blake argued that Milton was “of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

Photo by Phillip Ward / Courtesy of the Quentin Crisp Archive

Brian Edward and Phillip Ward both grew up gay. But while they were born two decades apart and hundreds of miles distant, they had something else in common: the influence of a man named Quentin Crisp. It’s a legacy they’ve teamed up to foster in the stage show “Quentin Crisp: The Last Word,” which gets its world premiere this week, in Pittsburgh.

Courtesy of Queer Ecology Hanky Project

From the brows of backpackers to the necks of dogs catching Frisbees, bandanas have accompanied many an outdoor activity.

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