By Brigid Morrissey

If you think that a woman can’t thrive in the field of construction, you’re wrong. Just ask Cynthia Torp. “There have been several instances, at least in the beginning, where I would be sitting in a construction meeting, and the men in the room would try and explain things to me, but I didn’t need them to explain; I understood everything. It’s always a little harder as a woman, especially in my generation.”

My generation. As in the generation of empowered women who forged a path so millennials like this writer can have a voice. The generation that fought for equality in the workforce. The generation that made it acceptable to want for something other than marrying and having children.

As a student, Cynthia dreamed of becoming an architect. In high school she pursued a math and science concentration that prepared her for college at Purdue University. What she wasn’t prepared for was how quickly she took to the art classes required for every architectural engineering major. She loved her art classes so much that one of her professors recommended she find a “real” art program, so she transferred to Herring School of Art in Indianapolis. Two years later, she transferred to Indiana University Southeast, earning a fine arts degree.

From there, Cynthia worked for 15 years as a commercial illustrator and designer. Several Fortune 500 companies outsourced to Cynthia from the West to East coast, but in the end, Cynthia wasn’t as happy as she knew she could be. From her dissatisfaction arose Solid Light, Inc., her 100 percent woman-owned business of 16 years.

Establishing a good working relationship with her colleagues is a high priority for Cynthia. 
Photos by Melissa Donald 

Solid Light designs and builds interactive visitor experiences all over the country and parts of the world. Each project is much like a Tinder dating match: it has to be a good fit not just for the project itself, but with the people collaborating together. “It’s such a partnership with our clients. We all get to know each other really well.” The camaraderie is so important because Cynthia and her crew work on projects that take years to develop. One of her favorite projects, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, for example, was a 10-year project. To help her conquer such a massive task, Cynthia has built a fortress of 30 employees around her, ranging from architects to filmmakers, who stay engaged in every step of the process. “I have hired designers of all types; our multidisciplinary backgrounds extend to graphics backgrounds, interiors backgrounds, and architectural backgrounds.”

Because of Cynthia’s interests in contrastive, yet cohesive fields like storytelling, history, and architecture, it only makes sense that the Solid Light portfolio contains works that reach a large audience.

  • Visitors to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville are transported through the history of Kentucky’s first distiller.
  • Children at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center in Clarksville, Indiana, are educated on natural and cultural history through a hands-on science museum.
  • The Delta Blues Museum, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, celebrates the impactful musical genre and the artists that brought it to the world.

With the variance of each project at Solid Light comes a unifying concept: Make every project unique. “We don’t do cookie-cutter solutions. Every single project brings its own unique, special thing.

“When I look at the journey of my own career, I love what I do, work with incredible employees, and work on projects that matter to the community, and sometimes the world,” Cynthia said. “I am passionate about stories that matter, that are well told, that are clear and simple, and that get to your heart. It’s a dimensional thing.”