Old in Art School
cover of book by Nell Painter, "Old in Art School"
Old in Art School—New Book by Nell Painter

Exciting New Reviews and Interviews!
(See more below — Reviews, Interviews, Book Excerpts, Advance Praise, details of Book Events, and Contacts)

Buy Old in Art School
See the Order links on COUNTERPOINT PRESS (Amazon, INDIEBOUND, and Barnes & Noble)

Book Events

Click link for details on event location, time, and contact information. (Book Events schedule is in process and other events will be added as they are confirmed.)

Date Venue City/State
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 Prairie View A & M University Prairie View, TX
Thursday, October 25, 2018 Brazos Bookstore Houston, TX
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 Bookworks Albuquerque, NM
Thursday, November 1, 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute Sante Fe, NM
Thursday, November 8, 2018 Quail Ridge Books Raleigh, NC

Nell Painter’s New Book

Nell Painter’s art school memoir is here! Official publication kick-off was at the New York Public Library on 19 June 2018. Stay tuned for other events around the country.





Following her retirement from Princeton University, celebrated historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter surprised everyone in her life by returning to school—in her sixties—to earn a BFA and MFA in painting. In Old in Art School, she travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how they may be undervalued; and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived.

How are women and artists seen and judged by their age, looks, and race? What does it mean when someone says, “You will never be an artist”? Who defines what “An Artist” is and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference?

Old in Art School is Nell Painter’s ongoing exploration of those crucial questions. Bringing to bear incisive insights from two careers, Painter weaves a frank, funny, and often surprising tale of her move from academia to art.


"While exploring what it truly means to be an artist, this book asks honest and important questions about how our definition of identity influences our shared concept of art."
TIME (magazine), One of the Best Memoirs of 2018 So Far

“After years of writing history, Painter has become a visual artist, but she also discovers that she does not need to leave history behind. In this book, a memoir, she brings the two “truths” together – the personal and the collective, the artistic and the historical – and the result is a heartening coming-of-age story for the retired set.”

“Painter claims her birthright as an artist, a black woman, and a woman of a certain age at a time and in a cultural milieu that ignores all three.”

“Painter chronicles her experience of returning to art school as an older African American woman with honest and elegant prose. Her narrative weaves expertly among her art school experience, family upbringing, the loss of her mother, caring for her father at a distance, and art itself. . . . Painter’s memoir presents her as an accessible artist, warm and inviting and keen to share her hard-won insights into her craft.”
LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review

“Old in Art School is a glorious achievement…Nell Painter has taken the coming of age story to a new level—this is what you get when a wise person gets even wiser, when a true artist spreads her wings.”
—TAYARI JONES, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow

“Nell Painter’s masterful, disarmingly witty, and profound book Old in Art School will change your perspective about what is possible in the full arc of a life. Her probing book about [her] art school journey, as sage as it is humorous, revels in the untold magic of exploring how beginnings can happen at all stages of the journey. This book is indispensable nourishment for the creative soul.”
—SARAH LEWIS, Harvard University, author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery

“Nell Painter has courage and intelligence. She reminds us that the only option as we grow older is to grow younger. Never forgetting our curiosity and passion, we are well armed for the challenge.”
—MAIRA KALMAN, author of The Principles of Uncertainty and Beloved Dog

“Painter extracts important lessons about gender and racial politics in contemporary America that, contrary to the norm in art schools, demonstrate that such complex issues of ‘identity’ can be addressed in plain but vivid language, even as she gives artistic questions the edge. An invigoratingly affirmative, refreshingly unjaded case for following one’s passion.”
—ROBERT STORR, professor, painting and printmaking, Yale University School of Art

“Even before a teacher tells her, ‘You’ll never be an artist,’ Painter’s story wins us over with its contrarian premise. Among twenty-somethings, Painter proves herself a sharp observer—not just of art school partying, pedagogy, and process, but also of generational, sexual, and racial blind spots. Painter has produced a cheerful and beguiling memoir, one that will inspire readers of any age to consider starting again.”
—ALEXI WORTH, artist

“Painter blows up treasured clichés about what it means to be ‘an artist’ and who fits that role, presenting us with comic scenes of questionable pedagogy. This book…deserves to be widely read and hotly discussed!”

“Memoirs by black women artists are extremely rare, and this one is so beautifully written, so perfectly formed in terms of its storytelling trajectory…Old in Art School seems both definitive and unforgettable.”
—MICHELE WALLACE, author of Dark Designs and Visual Culture

“What a delightful turn by Nell Painter. One would read anything she wrote, having written what she has, but this chronicle of going to undergraduate and then graduate art school in her sixties is an especially fascinating, lively work.”
—RICK SIMONSON, Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)

“Painter is a personality par excellence; forthright, erudite, and perfectly profane, her voice enthralls. . . . Filled with immense insight and presence, Painter’s memoir confronts a variety of issues and what it means to shoulder those burdens in the pursuit of art. Essential reading.”
FOREWORD REVIEWS, starred review

“It is impossible to read Nell Painter's generous and whole-souled memoir without feeling enlivened by motivation... Old in Art School is a celebration of courage, curiosity, and the audacity to live by one's own rules.”
BUZZFEED'S "1 of 30 Exciting New Books to Add to your Summer Reading List"

"Bold, brave...Old in Art School is a fascinating memoir about Painter’s daring choice to follow a passion with courage and intellect, even when the odds seemed firmly stacked against her."
BOOKPAGE, Top Pick in Nonfiction, July 2018


Published by COUNTERPOINT PRESS, www.counterpointpress.com

For author interviews, reviews, and excerpts, contact:
  Lena Moses-Schmitt, Publicist – 510.704.0230 ext. 215

For sales and marketing queries, contact:
   Jennifer Kovitz, Associate Publisher and Director of Marketing

back cover of Old in Art School
photo of Nell from back cover
Jacket design by Faceout Studio, Jeff Miller
Jacket art by Nell Painter and Shutterstock
Author photograph by John Emerson

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2018 Book Events
Date Venue Time City/State Location/Contact
Wednesday, October 24, 2018 Prairie View A & M University, Texas   Prairie View, TX Location: 700 University Drive, Prairie View, Texas 77446,
Mail: P.O. Box 519, Prairie View, TX 77446
Event Contact: https://www.pvamu.edu/contact-us/
Telephone: (936) 261-3311
Thursday, October 25, 2018 Brazos Bookstore 7:00 pm Houston, TX Location: 2421 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77005
Event Contact: https://www.brazosbookstore.com/event/nell-painter-old-art-school
Telephone: (713) 523-0701
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 Bookworks    Albuquerque, NM  Location: 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107
Event Contact: https://www.bkwrks.com/nell-painter
Telephone: (505) 344-8139
Email: events@bkwrks.com
Thursday, November 1, 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute   Santa Fe, NM Location: 600 St. Michael’s Dr., Santa Fe, NM, 87505
Mail: PO Box 24044, Santa Fe, NM 87502
Event Contact: https://sfai.org/events/ (not on calendar yet)
Telephone: (505) 424-5050
Email: info@sfai.org
Thursday, November 8, 2018 Quail Ridge Books 7:00 pm Raleigh, NC Location: North Hills, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh NC 27609
Event Contact: https://www.quailridgebooks.com/event/nell-painter (Reserved Seat/Signing Line Ticket event)
Telephone: (919) 828-1588

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