More than just a pipe dream: Tri-Cities glass-blowing studio is an ‘incubator for cool’

Prohibition Studios to open in downtown Kennewick

Steve Lee, co-owner Prohibition Studios, shares his vision of the glass blowing studio becoming an incubator for "cool and creatives" in downtown Kennewick.
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Steve Lee, co-owner Prohibition Studios, shares his vision of the glass blowing studio becoming an incubator for "cool and creatives" in downtown Kennewick.

An incubator for cool.

That’s what a pair of Tri-City entrepreneurs and arts supporters want their new venture in downtown Kennewick to become.

Prohibition Studios is a glass blowing space where some of the country’s premier artists will gather starting this week to create and learn.

The studio and adjoining gallery also aim to be a hub for local arts and culture — a clubhouse for creatives that inspires and grows even more artists and makers.

“We invested in this space to bring cool things here, to bring cool people here,” said Steve Lee, a marijuana retailer and Kennewick’s mayor pro tem.

He’s opening Prohibition Studios with his wife, Jessy. They also own Green2Go and Prohibition Glass.

Green2Go is a cannabis company with stores in Finley and Sprague, and Prohibition Glass is a glass retailer selling pipes and the like. It’s off Highway 397 in Finley.

Steve Lee glass
Steve Lee, co-owner of Prohibition Studios, stands in the gallery section of the new glass blowing studio at 507 N. Everett St. in Kennewick. The business is celebrating its grand opening Friday with a gallery show and open house for the public to learn more about it. Watch a video at: tricityherald.com/video Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

At Prohibition Studios, which is off North Everett Street and has its grand opening on Friday, lead artist C.J. Freestone and others will craft pieces for the retail glass shop, for sale online and for collectors.

The studio also will be the site of high-level classes, drawing some of the industry’s best artists to hone their skills and create together in the state-of-the-art space.

The first of those classes happened this week, in advance of the grand opening.

In the gallery next to the studio, artists will be able to show their work.

The space already has dozens of stunningly detailed pieces, from a dab rig — a device used to smoke marijuana in a concentrated form— that’s shaped like the transformer Megatron, to a pipe in the form of Saul Goodman from “Breaking Bad.”

Wain Wright, an employee who’s helping with the studio and gallery, said the company is “really excited” to become an even more ingrained part of the Tri-Cities community.

He sees the new studio as not only a local art hub, but one for the entire state.

Prohibition Glass blower
CJ Freestone, lead artist at Prohibition Studios, shapes a glass tube mounted in a lathe at the new studio and gallery in downtown Kennewick. His mouthpiece is connected to the heated glass tube and is used to help shape it. The public grand opening is Nov. 30. See story on Page 2A. Watch a video at: tricityherald.com/video Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

That vision of a bustling creative hub already has traction.

As Lee gave a tour, Freestone heated and shaped a colorful glass tube, while other artists looked on.

Local painters and musicians Cameron and Kathryn Mills — who ran the Candy Gallery in downtown Kennewick — also were on hand. So was Justin Frick, an in-demand filmmaker.

Along with creating this new space for artists, the Lees also have made significant investments in the local arts and culture scene in recent years — sponsoring numerous exhibitions and concerts, including the hip hop showcases Pineapple Island and Neptune at the Uptown Theatre in Richland.

They even helped bring in Snoop Dogg in 2016.

And Lee has more plans for downtown Kennewick.

Although he can’t yet announce a specific site, he intends to move Prohibition Glass into a building with enough room to also include an expanded version of the glass art gallery, which will move from its current home at Prohibition Studios.

The new building also will have space for other creative ventures.

And the gallery relocation will make room at the studio for things like community glass blowing classes.

Prohibition Studio pipes
Brightly colored glass pipes are on display in the glass blowing work area at Prohibition Studios on North Everett Street in Kennewick. Watch a video at: tricityherald.com/video Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Meanwhile, Lee is excited to launch Prohibition Studios.

It’s in an ideal spot, not far from the new Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village.

“It’s clear this area is going to be a thing,” Lee said — and the new studio will enhance it.

That’s at the heart of all his efforts — why he stayed in the Tri-Cities, built things here and tries to help others build, too.

“The Tri-Cities has an issue where people with means, or strategy, or passion often find a way out of this community when they’re 16, 17, 18, 19, and then come back when they’re 35, with a couple kids, because it’s a great place to raise a family and the schools are good,” Lee told the Herald.

“I’ve always hypothesized that if we could just get more cool kids to stay here — that’s the thing we need. They can stay and invest and create cool, and that can build,” he said.

The things they create then leading to more cool things, to more people staying, to a better community.

“When we have a core of awesome, good stuff will happen,” Lee said. “It expands on its own.”

Prohibition Studios’ grand opening is at 7:10 p.m. Friday at the space, 507 N. Everett St.

It’s free and the public is invited.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, sschilling@tricityherald.com