Artist Statement

Self-taught artist diagnosed with Autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired verbal and non-verbal communication.


By age two, I was completely non-verbal and was unable to learn and use language like most children my age. By age three, art became my only form of communication. I learned to express my perceptions of life and everyday living through my drawings and artwork. 


Since, my first drawing at age three I have continued to break down the barriers of Autism through sharing my unique artistic talents with the community. As well, as advocating for more social inclusion for individuals with Autism.


Autism is not a disease. Autism is not a curse. Autism is a GIFT. 










Awards & Exhibitions

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2007-2008: Designed Christmas cards for Autism Breakthrough Corporation. My artwork was featured on WVLT-TV (Channel 8) with Stacey McCloud. Participant in the annual Dogwood Arts Festival and the Knoxville Museum of Art showcase Artists on Location. My artwork "Red Flowers" was featured in City View Magazine: Annual Arts Magazine and "Flower Pops" was featured in the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Breaking Ground magazine.

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2009: Participant in Autism Awareness month group exhibition for Very Special Arts of Tennessee in Sweetwater, Tennessee. Solo exhibit at the Wilbur N. Daniel African-American Cultural Center at Austin Peay University. Watermelon Flowers is on permanent display. In addition, artwork was featured on the Tennessee Travelers Series (WVLT—Channel 8), hosted by Alan Williams. Awarded the Outstanding Artist Award from the Arc of the Mid South in 2009, featured artist for the 2009 Tennessee Disability Mega-Conference and recipient of the Future Horizons Inc Dr. Temple Grandin Award for outstanding contributions to family, community, and self.  

2010: Solo exhibit at the Living Heritage Museum of McMinn County in Athens, Tennessee and the Knoxville Soap & Candle Shop. Art Exhibitor for the 2010 Tennessee Disability Mega Conference in Nashville.  

2011: Awarded the Clinton T. Walker Foundation grant for Outstanding Artist Achievement. Art exhibitor for the 2010 Tennessee Disability Mega Conference in Nashville, the Art Fair in Madisonville, and was the featured artist for Knoxville Community Television’s First Friday. 

2012: Solo and group exhibits including: a solo exhibit at Lipscomb University’s John C. Hutchenson Gallery, the Tennessee Disability Mega Conference, the Superheroes Unit exhibit at Vanderbilt University’s Kennedy Center, and the Knoxville Arts & Cultural Alliance at the Emporium Center. Featured artist for the May 2012 Breaking Ground magazine. In December, selected by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, to design an ornament for Governor Bill Haslam and Crissy Haslam, First Lady of Tennessee, annual celebration Tennessee’s Home for the Holidays. My ornament, Reflections of the Sunsphere, was featured on the Tennessee Counties Tree. 

2013: Featured artist for Mast General Store Knoxville December First Friday celebration. 

2014: Mosaic exhibited at the ArtAble Collection at Village Green Hills, the largest art collection of artists with disabilities in the nation. Featured artist of the Autism Spectrum Autism August newsletter. First Friday artist for the month of December at the Mast General Store Knoxville.  

2015: Participant in the Community Partner Art Exhibition for artists’ with disabilities at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Featured artist  for “Art for the Holidays” at Envisions Art Gallery Knoxville. First Friday artist for the month of December at the Mast General Store Knoxville. 

2016: African Tribal Print was featured at the 2nd Annual Gallery of Arts Tribute, a juried exhibition, presented by the Arts & Culture Alliance and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission in Knoxville. First Friday artist for the month of December at the Mast General Store Knoxville. 

2017: Through My Eyes: Works by Derrick Freeman, an Autistic Artist exhibited at the Knoxville Emporium Center for the month of February. First Friday artist for the month of December at the Mast General Store Knoxville and the Regas Building

2018-2019: In 2018, Expressions by Derrick Freeman exhibited at the Knoxville Emporium Center in April. Featured artist of the month of July at Hexagon Brewing Company First Friday artist for the month of December at the Mast General Store Knoxville and the Regas Building. In the summer of 2019, Derrick received the Ann & Steve Bailey Grant  and in August 2019, was selected as the featured artist for the Ernie Els Foundation’s Art in the Pavilion in Jupiter, Florida.  He also was the featured artist for National Disability Employment Month at Maple Hall and at Mast General store and the Regas Building in December 2019.