The art world loses a talent no less engaging than his smile

By anne
March 16, 2008 - 18:27.

Last year I was surprised by the news that a gallery of African art was to open in Richfield, a suburb in which “Black or African American persons” total only 6.6 percent of the population. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau: State and County QuickFacts)

I visited the new Ampah Gallery, and though I had planned to look around for 20 minutes, I ended up hanging out for hours. The owners, Felix Ampah and his wife Silvia, handed me hot cider and showed me around. I was family.

The owner-curators explained the symbolism in Felix’s work, most of which depicts the people and traditions of his native Ghana. I stayed for a class that Felix taught for the community called “Living with Art.” More chat, more cider, and the photo above, which is exactly how I will remember Felix, who died on February 26, 2008.

I’m sad. Last night, at a St. Patrick’s Day party at the home of Margaret Nelson, I saw Virtual Media Solutions purveyor Remi Douah, and said, “Dude, you’ve got to meet Felix Ampah.” He said he would. I was too late.

Back in February, I was not too late to plan for a visit when a Ghanaian friend from Maryland came to Minneapolis in mid-February. But we got busy and never got over to the gallery.

People…take my word for it…artists come and go but souls like Felix Ampah are rare. See their art. Meet them if you can, and you will glimpse the world through different eyes…eyes that see—or, perhaps, seek—nothing but beauty.

Heir to the royal throne in his native province in Ghana, Felix chose art school instead. He had something to say with that paintbrush of his—and the good news is, he might be gone, but his work—and his adorable wife—are still here for us to learn from.

Ampah Gallery will remain open under Silvia’s leadership at 66th Street and Chicago Avenue South (4 blocks east of Portland). Classes continue, in honor of the professor of art and design at Minneapolis Community and Technical College who was Felix Ampah. May he rest in peace.

Here is the inscription you will see as you enter the gallery:

I returned to visit my native country of Ghana in 1998, and came back with such a tremendous charge to communicate that experience; the people, the culture and the symbolism. These oil paintings on display are from a perspective that is most representative of all the color and pageantry that becomes Ghana.

I believe art could reveal the spiritual nature of people through the orchestration of color, line and form on the canvas. I am less inclined to express the agony of the human condition.

This is a commitment to the Humanist philosophy that values, characteristics and behavior that are believed to be best in human beings will lead to truth.

—Felix Ampah

March 18, 2008 - 12:52
Kim Matthews says:

I just found out today that we lost a great teacher, mentor, and friend. Felix was my drawing and painting instructor at MTI in the late ’80s. Unlike some others, he never favored more talented students but encouraged all equally. I struggled with drawing until I realized that I am meant to draw in space, and studying with warm, sensitive, and deeply human instructors like Felix made that kind of tenacity and exploration possible. His loss is a reminder to all of us to honor artists and teachers, for their dedication and honesty transforms lives.

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