By April Morton

(CBS DETROIT)– “Back in the day he could light you a smoke and pour you a shot,” said renown Detroit Artist Tony Roko as he describes one of his art pieces during an interview Thursday.

Artwork by Tony Roko

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For Roko the story lies in the details.

“I call this piece “Blue Blazer” it’s a classic cocktail and this gentleman is keeping fresh on his chops,” Roko said as he described another piece.

Recognized for his talent by his employer Ford three decades ago, Roko was commissioned by the motor company to paint murals in many Ford facilities. The vibrant portraits are used to boost employee morale. Now his art work has pivot during the pandemic, to boost morale for another industry that has suffered tremendously.

“Quite frankly have a lot on their plate, pun intended as it is so, we kind of were thinking how could we support them, through art.”

Roko is not only honoring those in the hospitality industry through his paintings he has also donated them to several local restaurants as a way to raise money for the restaurant relief fund.

Artwork by Tony Roko

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“Industry workers are now working doubles and picking up shifts and could we perhaps find a way to incentivize them. It’s and honor to be able to use my art as an avenue to help restaurants keep their doors and kitchens open,” said Roko.

Paintings will be on display throughout Detroit at the partner restaurants, with an impressive roster that is adding partners each day. So far, Restaurant Relief Fund installations can be viewed at Grey Ghost, SheWolf, Apparatus Room, and Karl’s.

Each installation has a QR code on display with the piece. Patrons will be able to scan the code, be taken to the Art of Roko online store and be able to purchase the prints in the collection. A portion of proceeds from each print will be paid directly to the establishment for their team to use as they see fit to aid in the recovery from the pandemic.

Artwork by Tony Roko

Each print in the series is a signed, limited run giclée on archival paper and are all 16” x 20” in size. The remaining funds raised by the initiative will be used for Art Foundation’s youth arts programming, serving the most underserved youth populations in Metro Detroit.

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