Local Pittsburgh artist studio opens on Forbes Avenue


Image via Argyle Studio

Argyle Studio held its grand opening last Thursday, offering Oakland a unique space for artistic retail. The pop-up shop represents the diversity of the Oakland community through a variety of products, including the creative work of over 30 local artists and vendors.

By Jessica McKenzie, For The Pitt News

Argyle Studio, a new pop-up artist’s shop in Oakland, came to fruition through the right-and-left-brain mother-daughter duo, Christine and Brigette Bethea. The pair envisioned Oakland’s newest retail space and brought it to life through their leadership company, ULEADx, LLC.

“We have very complementary skills,” Christine Bethea said, who holds the title of Creative Strategist of ULEADx. “I’m in the arts and creative, and Brigette is a logistics person. Your children are usually the opposite of you and sometimes it works out.”

Argyle Studio held its grand opening last Thursday, offering Oakland a zestful space for artistic retail, something the area has lacked in the past. The pop-up shop represents the diversity of the Oakland community through a variety of products, which includes the creative work of more than 30 local artists and vendors. Current store hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday. 

Georgia Petropoulos, the executive director of the Oakland Business Improvement District, first envisioned the concept of Argyle Studio in 2019. Recognizing the vibrancy of Oakland, Petropoulos approached state Sen. Jay Costa, D-43, with a request for additional funding for the project.

“[OBID] wanted to have an opportunity to improve retail in our district to provide more opportunities for minority and BIPOC women of business, entrepreneurship and art,” Petropoulos said.

Christine Bethea came across the opportunity for ULEADx to apply to work with OBID to produce Argyle’s brand. Her daughter, Brigette Bethea, holds the title of Lead Strategist at ULEADx.

“I’m really big on seeing all the pieces play out and being able to bring together disparate groups,” Brigette Bethea said. “My mother understands what artists need in order to feel comfortable, confident and supported. So, for this project, it’s been a great marriage.”

ULEADx was born while Brigette Bethea was pursuing her master’s degree in leadership at Georgetown University after leaving the military in 2012. Originally from Pittsburgh’s East End, she said she felt compelled to apply her community development skills to the place she called home.

“I have deep roots in the Pittsburgh area. It was kind of like, ‘Well, if I’m going to be working in community and leadership development, I’m not really tied to a specific community,’ so it just made a lot of sense to bring the work back home,” Brigette Bethea said.

When deciding to apply to work with OBID, Christine Bethea said she was attracted to the efforts of the organization to give visibility to their creatives rather than take their commission.

“OBID was interested in all the creative aspects of opening a store, not just the nuts and bolts,” Christine Bethea said. “They wanted [Argyle] to be more than just a store — they wanted it to be someplace where people could experience things and talk to the art makers and entrepreneurs.” 

Among the artists selected to sell their products in Argyle is Ingrid LaManna, owner of East End Alchemy, a handmade jewelry company based in Pittsburgh. LaManna said she heard about the opportunity to publicize her work through Argyle because she is a neighbor of the Betheas, and has always made jewelry as a hobby.

“One of the things I’ve always really wanted to do is turn my jewelry into my own business and this seemed like the perfect opportunity,” LaManna said.

LaManna specializes in precious metal clay and has been making jewelry since her time at State University of New York’s Geneseo campus as a metalsmithing major. Since then, she has participated in two craft shows and some of her jewelry has been featured at the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh Arts & Cultural Center in Pittsburgh.

Now that many businesses have begun to reopen following the pandemic, Argyle will shine a spotlight on minority and women small business owners, artists and entrepreneurs who have especially struggled in the past year. The Betheas said they selected vendors based on these factors, as well as the goal to feature locals of the Oakland community.

“One of the things that was important to OBID is that the [vendors] in the store reflect the community of Oakland,” Christine Bethea said. “We’re a multicultural, multi-generational company ourselves, so all of OBID’s criteria appealed to us.”

Of 64 applicants at Argyle, 35 were selected to display their work. According to Christine Bethea, she and her daughter were seeking out artists with a sort of “cool factor” to add to Argyle’s spirited atmosphere.

“We sort of ‘Shark Tanked’ ‘em. We were very interested in hearing them individually express pride in what they did,” Christine Bethea said. “We weren’t looking for a basket of experience, we just wanted people that believe in themselves.”

If business is successful, Argyle will shed its pop-up store status and become a permanent part of the neighborhood. The Betheas said they pride themselves in the variety of products the store has to offer.

“When we say, ‘There’s something for everyone at Argyle Studio,’ there’s absolutely something for everyone,” Brigette Bethea said. “No matter if you’re ages eight to 80, we hope that you can come in and enjoy the space.”