Knoxville artist with autism helps give back to others with disabilities

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Knoxville, Tenn. (WVLT) – Derrick Freeman, an autistic man from Knoxville, was helping to make a difference. Angela Hunter, Freeman’s mother, said he was non-verbal and diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old.

“It was devastating because I didn’t know what was wrong with him and we took him to the doctor and that’s when we found out he had autism. He stayed near a year without talking,” Hunter said.

Hunter said that when Freeman was 3 years old, he began expressing himself by communicating through his art.

“One day he just started drawing and I was standing behind him and I just noticed that it was all just out of his head. Not looking at picture books or anything like that to draw. He was doing it naturally on his own, and that’s when I realized he had a gift. He was drawing between 30 and 40 pictures a day, picture after picture, I realized that was his way of communicating with us,” said said Hunter.

With a large collection of artwork, Freeman sold his artwork through his business called “Eyes of Faith” from his art studio at Downtown Knoxville’s Emporium Center.

Hunter said proceeds from Freeman’s art will go to their non-profit organization called “Our Place Art,” which helps provide art lessons to other people with disabilities.

“I taught Derrick that it’s all about giving back to the community. So I have a non-profit organization that Derrick is part of. And so his product that he makes, he gives back to Our Place Art so that other people can come and participate in the art classes that we do,” Hunter explained.

Freeman said autism is not a curse and autism is a gift because God created it.

Freeman’s work is on display and for purchase at the Emporium Center.

The Knoxville Arts and Culture Alliance hosts a free reception at the Emporium the first Friday of every month from 5-9 p.m.

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