Derrick Adams is an American artist whose work focuses on the joyful aspects of community and family life  as a Black American.


Artist Derrick Adams poses in front of his art installation, Around the Way, at reopening at LIRR Nostrand Avenue Station on Jan. 31, 2020. Author: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York from United States of America, cc-by-2.0


Early Life and Education

Derrick Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1970. His close-knit family nurtured and encouraged his creativity. Adams spent summers with family in New York, including cousins who founded the Rush Gallery that supports underserved aspiring artists.


Adams credits one of his first art teachers in public school for helping him to pursue art as a career. The teacher, Ms. Wilson, entered him into a competition that focused on family and legacy, called My Heritage: Myself. Derrick Adams won the competition with his painting of his family.


Adams attended the Pratt Institute, where he received his BFA in 1996, and went on to study at Columbia University, where he completed his MFA in 2003



Derrick Adams stayed in New York after completing his MFA. He worked as curator at the Rush Gallery, while exhibiting his own works in galleries in the US, Europe, UK and Africa.


After seeing a 1967 photo spread in Ebony Magazine of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his family on vacation in Jamaica, Adams began to create works that portray Black families participating in leisure and celebratory activities.


Derrick Adams’ talent and reputation as a generous mentor and teacher led to a commission by the tv show Empire. He was asked to create a portrait of the two main characters, to be placed in their tv mansion.


Adams helped to curate Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle a national exhibit of the works of one of the finest Black artists of the twentieth century. The 2019-2020 show traveled to major venues throughout the US, including The Met and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.


Adams is creating an artists’ retreat in a house that he owns  in Waverly, a neighborhood in north Baltimore, as payback to his community. Derrick Adams’ works can be found in the permanent collections of The Met, The Whitney, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, JP Morgan Chase, New York, the Microsoft Art Collection,the Estee Lauder Collection, the University of Maryland, the Ford Foundation the Hudson River Museum and many more.



References: Sameer Rao. This Baltimore native’s art is internationally recognized. Here’s why his first solo show is at City Hall. Baltimore Sun. October 10, 2019.
Sugarcane Magazine. Derrick Adams and Creating His Own Lane. December 13, 2017.
Charles Moore, Star Artist Derrick Adams Explains the Radical Power of Making Work About Black People ‘Just Being, Living’. artnetnews. February 5, 2020.

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