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After Chernobyl Madison exhibit, Sept 4. 2009

Press Release - September 4, 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

After Chernobyl: Photo Exhibit by Michael Forster Rothbart

If you lived near Chernobyl, would you stay?

Madison photographer Michael Forster Rothbart has just returned from a year in Chernobyl. He received a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship to photograph and interview Ukrainians who remain in villages near Chernobyl a generation after the 1986 accident.

After Chernobyl, an exhibit of Forster Rothbart’s documentary photographs, will be displayed for two months in the Madison Municipal Building ARTspace gallery, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., from September 3 to October 30, 2009. The exhibit reveals daily life for Chernobylites, including residents who chose to stay in the Chernobyl-affected region and liquidators, veterans of the massive Soviet clean-up after the accident.

“Most visitors think Chernobyl is a place of danger and despair, and so this is what they photograph. For me, however, Chernobyl tells a story about endurance and hope,” says Forster Rothbart. “I created this exhibit because I want the world to know what I know: the people of Chernobyl are not victims, mutants and orphans. They are simply people living their lives, with their own joys and sorrows, hopes and fears. Like you. Like me.”

Forster Rothbart was a staff photographer for University of Wisconsin-Madison for six years and worked previously as an Associated Press photographer in Kazakhstan. During the past year, he lived in Sukachi, Ukraine, a small farming village just outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. He also spent time in Slavutych, Ukraine, the city built after the accident to house evacuated Chernobyl plant personnel.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Madison Arts Commission and FOCCUS (Friends of Chernobyl Centers, U.S.), a Madison-based non-profit that works with community centers in the Chernobyl region. Meuer Art & Picture Frame Co. and UW-Madison CREECA (Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia) also contributed to the exhibit.

Forster Rothbart worked closely with FOCCUS, founded by UW-Madison professor Norma Berkowitz in 1996. A FOCCUS fundraiser on Oct. 22, 2009 will coincide with the exhibit. Details will be available at

A second exhibit of Forster Rothbart’s work, Inside Chernobyl, documents the lives of nine of the 3,800 people who continue to work inside the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. This second exhibit premiered in Kyiv, Ukraine, last April and will travel to Washington D.C. in 2010. Forster Rothbart is working with media partner to create interactive online versions of both exhibits.

The City of Madison distributes funds to Madison artists and non-profit organizations through the Madison Arts Commission's annual grant programs. The Madison Arts Commission’s ARTspace program is open to all Madison visual artists who would like to showcase original two-dimensional works in highly utilized cityspaces. For more information visit our website at

For information about the Madison exhibit, contact:

Robert Schuettpelz
FOCCUS Executive Director

For interviews, contact:
Michael Forster Rothbart

Photographs are available for media use at:


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