WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The pandemic has many in the arts on or at the brink of bankruptcy. Over the last eight months, we’ve seen the music and art scene come together to keep doors open.

Anybody who’s ever thrown a fundraiser event thinks about the entertainment. That hasn’t really changed, although we’ve taken to gathering in wide-open spaces.

But as many of those who are more than willing to give their time, talent, and efforts to help out are hurting, local help is on the way.

It’ the Shirts for the Scene project and it’s a reboot of sorts from the summer. Axelrad put together ‘The Shirts Off Their Back’ campaign — selling t-shirts to help small businesses with profits.

That was followed by an outdoor concert put together by Joe Nardone Jr. and a collaboration of local organizations with help from local bands.

Now we stand with those bands who have lost out on playing shows, make money, and being able to entertain. That’s where the Popko Project comes in.

John Popko, recently the host of Alt Natives on 92.1, is working with Axelrad to give back to the bands.

He’s spent the better part of the last two decades seeing the music and arts scene grow in NEPA and he’s seen them band together to help out so it’s time to pay it forward.

“I think, oftentimes, people don’t buy things like hey yeah they play in a band like they make a couple of hundred bucks here and there like ‘no big deal.’ they’ll survive and it’s like this this this is income for them throughout the year that, you know, they’ve lost,” said Popko.

Clyde Rosencrance, from the band ‘Sleeplore’, said, “What really makes a scene is the sense of community. And that’s what we have here, when they see something like this going on, they’re ready to help. And you know, ready to kind of come together and help each other out. And the fact that you know, Popko and Axelrad had this idea to put together this initiative is amazing.”

It’s been up for a short time now, but the full list of shirts and beneficiaries is quickly heading to and over triple digits.

It’s not only helping local artists and businesses but also helping promote new art and music as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

The initial push for these shirts was for holiday presents but you might not get orders in time for the holidays. Not to worry, the effort is going to continue well past the holidays because people are yearning to get back to live shows, year-round.

If you have a band or business within the arts scene, you can email info@thepopkoproject.com.