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 by Andrew Weeks / Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Choreographer KT Nelson said that before she could create a dance work about a legendary religious pilgrimage, she literally had to walk the walk. 

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media

It’s been a long way back for the Three Rivers Film Festival.

The festival began in 1982 and for years was a fixture of Pittsburgh’s fall arts season. At its peak, the festival, organized by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, screened two full weeks of independent and art-house films and classics from around the world at multiple venues, including its own three theaters.

Courtesy of Resonance Works

Maria Sensi Sellner studied composition and conducting at Carnegie Mellon University, and has worked in music all around the U.S. for more than a decade. But she said she had to dig to learn about the many talented women composers' troupes, like her Resonance Works Pittsburgh, were ignoring.

Art by Douglas Cooper / Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh Press

If Douglas Cooper is a sort of superhero of Pittsburgh murals, he has an origin story to go with it.

Courtesy of Douglas Levine

Douglas Levine is a relative rarity in Pittsburgh: a full-time independent musician and composer. But it was a winding path to get there.

Photo by Jon Rubin

The words “There Are Black People in the Future” was blazoned on a rooftop billboard in East Liberty last year, confusing and even offending some. Indeed, critics got the billboard art project taken down in April 2018, a move that sparked its own outcry.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

The August Wilson House has been awarded a federal grant of nearly $500,000 toward restoration of the famed, Pittsburgh-born playwright’s boyhood home in the Hill District.

Officials say the funds will allow construction to begin on the 1840s brick house on Bedford Avenue, where Wilson, his mother and six siblings lived in the 1940s and ’50s. The $499,628 grant, administered by project partner Duquesne University, complements $5 million raised last year by a group of celebrities organized by actor Denzel Washington, among the nation’s most prominent Wilson admirers.

Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol is arguably the most influential artist since World War II. But Warhol was full of paradoxes – at once aggressively public and deeply private, and a serious artist who presented his life and art as all surface: the soup-can paintings, the candy-colored Marilyns, the glitzy Manhattan social scene. Beyond his towering status, there’s not much consensus about who Warhol, a man whose works have sold for $100 million or more, really was.

Courtesy of City of Asylum

City of Asylum is one of Pittsburgh’s busiest arts presenters, offering free literary readings, live music and film screenings a few nights each week at its home base, North Side venue Alphabet City.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Opera

Like other traditional art forms – classical music, theater, ballet – opera is always seeking ways to attract new and younger audiences. While some critics argue radical reinvention is required, Pittsburgh Opera thinks it might have found another way: harnessing 21st-century technology to broaden the appeal of a genre whose masterworks are rooted in the 19th or earlier.

Joel Tsui / Courtesy of Satellite Space and Kevin Clancy

Kevin Clancy grew up in the time before everyone had cell phones – back when a dial-up connection at his mom’s office was his lone internet access.

Courtyes of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

Acclaimed novelist Jewell Parker Rhodes vividly recalls her earliest years, growing up in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood in the 1950s and early 1960s. One reason is all the storytelling.

Through third grade, Rhodes and her younger sister were among the kids raised by her grandmother, who years earlier had come north from Georgia. Summer nights were spent on the front stoop on West North Avenue.

Courtesy of Let's Get Free

Josh Inklovich knows what it’s like to be in prison. And he wants to help others avoid the same fate.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Tree of Life -- Or L’Simcha is a conservative Jewish congregation, and Calvary Episcopal Church is mainline Protestant. But both Pittsburgh congregations trace their origins to the mid-19th century. And both have long inhabited houses of worship accented by stained glass on tree-lined Shady Avenue, albeit a mile apart. 

Courtesy of Mummies of the World

In the early 19th century, a tuberculosis outbreak that struck their town of Vac, in Hungary, took the lives of Michael Orlovits, and his wife, Veronica; their infant son, Johannes, also died during that time. All three were interred in a crypt in a church, and then – along with hundreds of other bodies there – they were forgotten about for nearly two centuries.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

For its newest grant program, one of the region’s biggest arts-and-culture funders had allocated $2.5 million. But after winnowing the original pool of 44 applicants to 12, the Allegheny Regional Asset District’s board (RAD) decided it liked them all, and simply added enough money to give each group what it asked for.

The result will be new and highly visible art in town, from public art in the parks to a stage play built from stories drawn from the community.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police responded to a medical situation in the South Side early Sunday morning. The initial investigation suggests a drug overdose.

Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media

There’s a good chance you’ve seen a sculpture by Dee Briggs, whom the Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media has named its Artist of the Year.

Briggs is known nationally, but her large-scale abstract works in steel have also appeared locally, in settings including Phipps Conservatory. Her assembly of six thin plates of steel formed into interlocking, wave-like shapes graced Stanwix Plaza for a year, starting during the 2018 Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Jeff Swensen / Courtesy of Bricolage Production Company

In 2012, Bricolage Production Company redrew the local theater map with “STRATA.”

Photo by Priscilla Zhu

There’s comedy, there’s improv comedy, and then there’s long-form improv comedy. It’s the kind of improv that Kasey Daley calls “the granddaddy of all forms.” And it’s the kind of improv that Daley co-founded Steel City Improv Theater (SCIT) to teach and promote.

Now, in its ninth year, SCIT is launching its inaugural festival to spotlight long-form. The four-day Steel City Improv Fest will host 33 teams, nearly half of them from outside Pittsburgh, from as far away as Los Angeles and Chicago.

Photo by Heather Mull / Real/Time Interventions

Mastoorah Fazly and her husband, Nooruloq, left Afghanistan for the U.S. in 2016. Like many Afghani refugees, they held Special Immigrant Visas because Noorulhoq had worked for the U.S. State Department, putting them in danger at home.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Njaimeh Njie spent three years on her public artwork “Homecoming: Hill District, USA.” This month, she completed the project’s final piece, a photo mural on the front steps of the Hill House Association’s landmark Kaufmann Center. But if a visit just hours after the installation is any indication, the work is already meeting its goal of connecting community members across time and space.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Ben Jones, 78, has been making art for more than a half-century. His exhibition credits, overseas and around the U.S., date to the early 1970s -- and some two decades before Amani Lewis, who’s 24, was even born. But the artists’ work is united in tandem exhibitions opening Friday at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center.

Liz Lauren/Victory Gardens Theater

What first got Lauren Yee was the music.

It was several years ago, in San Diego, that the up-and-coming playwright initially experienced Dengue Fever, a Los Angeles-based band that revived the psychedelic surf sounds of the little-known Cambodian rock scene of the 1960s and ’70s.

The Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol was a pioneering artist, surely the most influential since World War II. But he was also unique as a collector.

City of Asylum

Iranian-born singer and composer Mahsa Vahdat is known around the world for her songs inspired by traditional Persian music, with lyrics drawn from classic and contemporary Iranian poetry. Her collaborators have included the famed Kronos Quartet (with whom she’s performing a pair of concerts in Georgia next week). Yet she’s never sung in public in her home country, where since the 1979 Islamic revolution has banned concerts by solo female singers. 

Photo by Heather Tabacci / Courtesy of Rivers of Steel Arts

Mention “Homestead” to Pittsburghers, and many will think either of the huge U.S. Steel complex that used to join the town to the Monongahela River or The Waterfront, the sprawling shopping complex that took its place.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

The decision to stage the first all-female production in Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks’ 15-year history was pretty easy, says troupe founder Jennifer Tober. PSIP’s artistic committee liked local theater artist Elena Alexandratos’ pitch to do “Julius Caesar” that way from the get-go.

Courtesy of Heinz History Center

More than two decades ago, Lan Cao published her debut novel, “Monkey Bridge.” It was among the first novels by a Vietnamese-American author about the Vietnam War, and it was partly based on Cao’s own experience coming to the U.S. as a teen-aged war refugee, in 1975, at age 13. 

Courtesy Pittsburgh Performance Art Festival

Performance art is a bit difficult to define. It’s not theater, exactly, or dance, or music, though it can incorporate all three genres.