The enduring and versatile voice of Bonnie Koloc has been heard in Chicago since 1968. For a decade, Bonnie was a pivotal act at the Earl of Old Town, drawing crowds that stood in lines around the block, hoping, at least, for a place to stand to catch the hottest act in town. In time her folk-oriented style merged with jazz and blues, and her versatility took her to Mr. Kelly’s, a long-time Chicago landmark. While continuing to play at the Earl, Orphans and Holstein’s, she began appearing at festivals.
Along the way she received a Governor’s Award in 1973 for Best Singer, recorded ten albums, two of them with Epic. In 1984 her career took another turn when she starred in the Public Theater’s production of The Human Comedy, first earning her the theatre World Bronze Award for Outstanding New Talent on Broadway and a Drama Critics Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
In 1987, Bonnie returned to college to finish a B.A. in Art Education from the University of Northern Iowa. Since high school, Bonnie has shown a gift not only for acting but for fine art, and since 1987 she has been an active print maker, painter and ceramist. In the last eleven years she has had one-woman shows in the South and Midwest, including Chicago and Nashville. In 1999 she was distinguished by her inclusion in the National Exhibition of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society.
In 1996 Bonnie brought together her talents as a singer/songwriter and an artist in A Bestiary. A collection of linocuts, poetry, and music, A Bestiary captures thirteen beasts of the farm with a print, poem and song for each. This stunning work won Best in Show at the Iowa State Fair’s art salon in 1996. These art songs, written in the pentatonic scale, show Bonnie adding yet another dimension to her multi-faceted accomplishments. It is no coincidence that the Des Moines Register called her a “renaissance woman.” Copies of the limited edition set of A Bestiary have been acquired by individual collectors, the Iowa Arts Council, the Waterloo Art Center and Museum, and the special collections department of the Chicago Public Library. In 2003 Bonnie received a grant from the Iowa Arts Council to publish a trade edition of A Bestiary which was issued with a CD in 2005.
In 1997 Bonnie created a one-woman musical commissioned by the College of Du Page in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Set in the country of Trashmania, a land of artists and good dogs, the story centers around a woman’s attempts to fulfill her vocation a singer while regaling us with stories of her eccentric aunts, also artists, in the Royal Trashmanian Circus. For this musical Bonnie not only wrote music and lyrics for nineteen songs, but designed and built the set (which included her own paintings, prints, and drawings) and created all the costumes.
In 2009 Bonnie was honored with a one-woman show, “The Visual Voice of Bonnie Koloc” at the Elmhurst Art Museum. This marked her twelfth one-woman art show in 18 years.
Bonnie has illustrated over a dozen books for Free River Press, published by her husband, former Chicago Tribune columnist Robert Wolf. Free River Press publications are collections of stories documenting life across America by people without literary ambition. Most recently Bonnie created the cover art and twenty linocut decorations for Robert’s latest book, Heartland Portrait: Stories From the Rural Midwest.
Bonnie’s collaboration with her husband has included work for his two books with Oxford University Press: An American Mosaic: Prose and Poetry by Everyday Folk and Jump Start: How to Write From Everyday Life.
Bonnie continues to perform and record. Her latest CD, “Bonnie Koloc-Rediscovered,” (2012) is preceded by thirteen albums, including “Timeless” (2004), a double CD of selections from mostly live performances between 1970 and 1995; “A Bestiary” (2005), a CD accompanying the art book described above; “Here To Sing” (2006), a studio recording; and, most recently “Beginnings” (2009), a CD of selections from early live recordings by Rich Warren, primarily of performances at the legendary Chicago folk club, the Earl of Old Town.