I was introduced to "Chicago Art" while a student at NIU in DeKalb. Before that, I had no inkling of anything. I knew about Picasso, Toulousse-Lautrec, Modigliani, and I had seen magazine articles and books about Pop Art.
Basically, Carl Hayano introduced me to this whole other world, and I think the word "other" is a key factor. The Hairy Who, Ed Paschke, and then many other artist who weren't "Imagists" like Frank Piatek and William Conger became part of my world. This was all before the internet, so you had to actually go into the big city on the weekends.
Friday nights at the galleries were quite the thing, free white wine, hob-nobbing with famous people... probably didn't really happen all that much, but it was fun.
I actually didn't know that the School of the Art Institute was a real thing. I thought that people just took weekend classes there. Then, come to find out, my teacher had gone there, and yes, it was an actual school. In fact, the museum was built around the school to give students a first-hand experience with real art. The museum eventually became the largest collection of Impressionist paintings because of that.
In the early 90s, I married a woman who had gone to school with the Imagists. She told me that she used to eat lunch with Christina Ramberg. She knew everyone. I always loved hearing about all the things they did and what she knew about all of those people.
I had lived in Chicago on the north side for a couple of years in the late 80s. In my apartment building I had a small studio in the basement (cellar). It was cold in the winter, and damp in the summer. It had a tiny window with a little curtain on it - I kept the curtian open so that on the off-chance that Ed Paschke or anyone else might be driving by, they might glance over and see me painting there with my airbrush. (LOLOLOL!) It was a symbolic thing, OK? I knew that wasn't going to happen. You couldn't possibly even see in there while driving down the street, but I've always had my dreams. So, don't take my dreams away.
Chicago still is a big part of me and my art.