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People SEEN Stealers

Redefining Labels with Tony Roko

Published September 29, 2017 by

Meet Tony Roko, Ford assembly line worker turned artist.

Tony Roko’s story took him from the factory floor to the gallery wall and earned him kudos as Detroit’s Best Fine Artist four years running by local media. Roko’s career began when he was pulled off the Ford assembly line by union reps and management who took notice of his talent. They asked if he’d like to be part of a plant beautification project to boost workers’ morale.

“I didn’t have any money so I would use things found around the factory,” Roko says. “I became the resident artist for Ford and began working to beautify other plants in the Detroit area as well.”

With exposure to industrial coatings, brilliant, neon safety colors began to appear in his work, becoming his unique, emotive voice. As a kid and on the line during his breaks, he was always sketching his fellow workers.

Some of Roko’s Works:

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Recently, Roko was approached by Detroit’s Atwater Brewery to make their bottles pop. “They wanted the imagery to allure people, and they wanted a brand that would expose them to a wider market,” he says.

He has since created a series of paintings to act as the new face of Atwater Brewery, bringing the Detroit company’s signature brews and spirits to 30 states and European markets.

Roko has created commissioned works for Jay Leno, Lady Gaga and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. Most recently, Roko has partnered with Wolverine Human Services to form the Art Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization fostering creative minds for at-risk children.

The Art Foundation’s mission is to provide art education and creative expression opportunities for youth in Southeast Michigan schools and therapeutic facilities. Programs will emphasize key components and valuable lessons acquired through his 30-year journey from autoworker to working artist. With the understanding that each student has unique strengths and attributes, Roko has developed scalable curriculum geared toward varied skill levels and individual objectives.

Meet Tony Roko.

Join SEEN and Tony Roko from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Atwater Brewery, 237 Joseph Campau Ave., Detroit, for beer tastings and passed appetizers. Roko will be signing bottles for the Atwater beer labels he created. Tickets are $25 and cover your beer and apps. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Art Foundation. Get your tickets here.

Also, join Roko for the public opening of the Art Foundation at The Warehouse Studio, 180 Adams St., Door 8, in Plymouth, from 4-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, and from noon-5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.

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