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 Joey Kennedy / Courtesy of the August Wilson Center

In October, the August Wilson Center hosted the North American premiere of “Flying Girls,” an acclaimed sculptural installation by Nigerian artist Peju Alatise. The work is already internationally known – it was featured at the prestigious 2017 Venice Biennale -- and it’s been a highlight of the local arts season.

Photo by Aislinn Weidele

It might seem merely serendipitous that both democracy as we know it and theater as we know it arose in roughly the same place and time: Athens, Greece, in the late 6th century BCE.

Joey Kennedy / Handmade Arcade

The 14th annual Handmade Arcade on Saturday will look a lot like the past several ones, as Pittsburgh’s oldest and largest indie craft fair takes over a big chunk of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the day.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Irma Freeman was born in 1903, in Germany. She died in 1994, in Pittsburgh, having established a name locally as a self-taught artist.

Photo by Alisa Garin / Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh is familiar with unusual venues for music and performance art. Over the years, it’s seen art rock in a junkyard, and theater both on a river barge and in an empty swimming pool.

Subsurface was likely a milestone, though. The Carnegie Mellon University event last year was probably the first ever around here held in the labyrinth-like setting of a limestone mine.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Bill of Rights Day was born in strife: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the order creating it on Dec. 15, 1941 – just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was Roosevelt’s way of marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Provided photo

Say “women aviators before World War II” and most people will respond “Amelia Earhart.” But Earhart was far from the only pioneer in this field. And a few of them, in fact, hailed from Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of

Billy Strayhorn wasn’t born in Pittsburgh. But he largely grew up here and got much of his musical training in Pittsburgh, too. On Saturday, the theater that bears his name honors his birthday with its 11th annual tribute concert.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

This past Saturday, Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Center for the Arts held an auction at the group’s Melwood Avenue headquarters, home to Filmmakers for more than two decades.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Ann Gurske has lived in Beechview for 58 of her 75 years. This fall, there was something new at the city-run Healthy Active Living Center where she often goes for lunch and socializing: a public art project.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

In the summer of 1991, Bob Ziller had just moved to Pittsburgh from New York. He wasn’t living “anywhere in particular,” he says. He found a home away from home at a business that was another newcomer to the South Side: The Beehive Coffeehouse & Dessertery, which had just opened at South 14th and East Carson streets.

Art by Chris McGinnis

Chris McGinnis grew up in Indiana County and often spent family vacations at a camp in Allegheny National Forest, two hours north of Pittsburgh. He and his siblings explored the remains of an old tanning mill on the Clarion River – a ghost town recalling an industry of days gone by.

Courtesy of Film Pittsburgh

For many of the world’s filmmakers – surely most of them – short films are the way to go, a more affordable way to tell a story or realize one’s vision than a full-length feature. The hard part of the bargain is it’s a lot harder to find an audience. Movie theaters don’t routinely program short films; television stations don’t show them; and online, you’re competing with the whole internet.

Autumn Stankay / SkySight Photography

Starting Nov. 3, many visitors to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art have gotten a pleasant surprise: The venerable institution no longer requests donations from visitors.

Hold On To Your Music Foundation

In the aftermath of the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue, many find it sobering to recall that this month is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Photo courtesy of City Books

Like many Pittsburghers, Arlan Hess says that after the shootings last month at Tree of Life synagogue, she felt helpless.

Then she realized there was a way she could help.

Hess owns City Books on the North Side, and on Saturday the shop will host the Tree of Life Memorial Reading, with a dozen local writers and live music.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater

Lynn Nottage began researching the play that became Sweat in 2011. In today’s rapidly changing political landscape, that seems like eons ago. But when it premiered on Broadway in 2016, just five days before the presidential election, Sweat felt as topical as an op-ed column. One prominent critic even called it “the play that explains Trump’s win.”

The famed Underground Railroad was not, of course, an actual railroad. 

Courtesy of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

In response to the deadly shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Squirrel Hill, several local cultural institutions are offering free admission this week.

The groups want to serve as places of healing and comfort.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, on the North Side, is free to visitors through Friday.

So is the Frick Art Museum, in Point Breeze, which is hosting an exhibit of fantastical costumes made from paper.

Photo by Andrew Jordan / Courtesy of The Blanket

Christopher Williams has long been fascinated by the stories of martyred saints. He is especially captivated by Legenda aurea, or Golden Legend, a lushly illustrated collection of hagiographies first compiled in the 13th century by the Italian chronicler, Jacobus de Varagine.

Image courtesy of the University Art Gallery

In recent decades, critics have increasingly focused on how different genders are represented in film, TV and video games. But the critique can go much further into history, and the paintings, drawings and sculpture that also influence how we view each other.

Courtesy of Point Park University

Visitors to Point Park University’s new Pittsburgh Playhouse, Downtown, are likely to be impressed. Visitors also familiar with the old Pittsburgh Playhouse, in Oakland, might well be wowed by the upgrade.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has hired a new editorial cartoonist to replace Rob Rogers, who was fired amidst controversy over the paper's refusal to publish work by him criticizing the Trump administration. The paper announced today that its new cartoonist is Steve Kelley, a veteran of newspapers in San Diego and New Orleans.

Photo by Kinsley Stocum

Most journalists don’t write much about themselves. Neither did Brittany Hailer.

Photo by William D. Wade

The old phrase “whistling past graveyards” suggests how our culture has traditionally viewed the grounds where we bury our dead: as places of mourning, or even dread, to be avoided for as long as one can manage.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

The 2018 Carnegie International, which opens Saturday, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, will spotlight work by dozens of artists and artist teams from around the world. But only one of those artists, it’s safe to say, traces his relationship with the museum back to 1968.

Photo by Renee Rosensteel / Image courtesy of the New Hazlett Theater

Each year, millions of people around the world become refugees due to extreme weather like storms, flooding, and drought. As climate change worsens, their numbers are expected to rise. Climate change has been implicated even in refugee crises that most people think are entirely political in nature, like the horrific civil war in Syria.

Sereny Welsby, a 30-year-old aspiring filmmaker, was thrilled back in April when she got a job with the Silk Screen Asian-American Film Festival.

The feeling, she says, didn’t last long.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Michael Olijnyk, the executive director of the Mattress Factory, is being placed on paid leave immediately.

Image courtesy of Daliborka Films

In Command and Control, Eric Schlosser’s 2013 book about the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the episode warranted just a paragraph: in 1954 a Japanese fishing boat was showered with fallout from atomic testing in the Pacific Ocean.