Backtrack and NERAM present Backtrack: A Collaboration

For the first time ever – Backtrack will have an exhibition at the New England Regional Art Museum.

ART ON SHOW: Backtrack's Alex Brotherson and Matt Pilkington have been preparing for this week's exhibition all year. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

ART ON SHOW: Backtrack's Alex Brotherson and Matt Pilkington have been preparing for this week's exhibition all year. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

Backtrack: A Collaboration presents recent works made by the Backtrack students in collaboration with artist-in-residence Matt Pilkington.

“We’ve been working on stuff from the beginning of the year,” Mr Pilkington said.

The exhibit includes a life-size crocodile weighing in at over 100kg.

“One of the boys came in with a chunk of steel and said ‘I want to make a crocodile out of this’,” Mr Pilkington said.

“He didn’t realise it was going to be this big but about a team of four of us got into it.”

The sculpture is made from “rusty bits” of old agricultural machinery.

“That’s pretty much what we make most of our sculptures out of,” he said.

Mr Pilkington said in addition to the croc, the boys have also been testing their building skills on other farm animal sculptures. 

“We’ve also got a sheep and a kangaroo which are made out of old farm equipment which people drop off to us,” he said.

“It’s good, people always drop that sort of stuff off to us to help out the boys.”

Mr Pilkington said making the sculptures was not only fun but it helps build the boys’ technical skills.

He said the workshops also provide the young men with an opportunity to explore and develop skills in a range of artistic mediums.

“It’s a good way for them to learn welding and all that without having to measure stuff up,” he said.

“It gives them confidence to use other power tools and it’s just a good opportunity for them.”

Mr Pilkington also has about 11 paintings which he will have in the exhibition. 

“I’ve got some art work and paintings of my own that I’ve done based on Backtrack as well,” he said.

“We had plenty of sculptures for the floor but we needed some paintings for the wall.”

Mr Pilkington has been involved with Backtrack for around six years.

“I was actually teaching youth work at TAFE and I found out about Backtrack,” he said.

“I thought ‘that’s exactly what I want to do’”.

He was also president of the New England Art Society for more than three years.

“I’ve always had something to do with the arts wherever I’ve gone,” he said.

The works in this exhibition are available for purchase with funds raised going towards supporting Backtrack.

It will officially launch this Friday, August 18 at 6pm at NERAM and will run until mid-September. 


For the past six years, Alex Brotherson has been making his mark at Backtrack.

“I was having a lot of problems at school and started coming here in 2011,” he said.

“I was coming here one day a week because I was doing TAFE.

“It was a welding course so I was doing it with Matt a lot and it helped me bump up my welding skills.”

Under the artistic guidance of Backtrack’s resident artist, Matt Pilkington, Mr Brotherson learnt to weld, build and lead a bright future.

He’s even helped put together Backtrack’s first-ever exhibition for the New England Regional Art Museum which kicks off this Friday.

“It will be good, I actually wouldn’t mind going to see this one,” Mr Brotherson said.

“We had a lot of welding jobs and I was involved with a lot of structural work.

“They [Backtrack] really take you in.”

The man behind the magic is Bernie Shakeshaft.

With more than 20 years experience in youth work he founded Backtrack in 2006.

Since then the team has been recognised for a bunch of awards and have introduced a range of programs to help get local youth back on track through building skills and encouraging employment opportunities. 

Paws Up is one of Backtrack’s current programs which helps participants build trust, discipline and confidence. They are a successful dog high jumping team who travel throughout NSW and interstate to compete. 

The exhibition at NERAM, called Backtrack: A Collaboration, presents recent works made by the Backtrack students in collaboration with Mr Pilkington. NERAM Director Robert Heather said they were extremely excited.

“Backtrack are a great organisation and we’ve been working with them over the past couple of years to try and get their students involved and more interested in what we do,” he said.

“A lot of programs for youth at risk often involve an artistic component. It gives them a chance to express their creativity and make something.

“It helps them think outside the box, I think often young kids need opportunities to think differently about themselves and the world and I think the arts is a great way to do that.”