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Since her time as a student at Rosary College, artist Bernadette Stepnowski Freeman ’79 has found joy combining her two passions: Collage art and the Beatles. 

Freeman, known professionally as Deco, has been exhibiting art at Chicago’s annual Fest for Beatles Fans— previously known as Beatlefest—since 1977. She returned this August to award fellow artists for their work inspired by the Fab Four, host a poetry jam, and star in short Beatles-themed plays she has cowritten. 

“It’s a family reunion every time,” Freeman said of the fest. “Fans I have known since 1977 remember me from the first Beatlefest I did.”

It was a piece she created for the fest during her senior year at Rosary College that ultimately opened the door to her future life’s work. 

“My very first collage was a portrait of John Lennon,” she said. “I was finishing up the yearbook in the basement of Lewis Hall, cutting up photos, laying out pages by hand, and I had this idea. I wanted to make a portrait in collage, with cut-out articles written about John and Yoko Ono’s wedding. So, I used the copy machine in Lewis to make copies of the news articles and cut them up in the yearbook room.”

In the four decades since, Freeman’s collages have reflected themes beyond the Beatles. Now living in New Mexico, her 2019 piece depicting red cliffs bearing the names of 39 New Mexico poets currently hangs inside a state building in Albuquerque.

“It’s one of the proudest professional experiences of my life,” she said.