With the help of the President’s Office, Gabrielle Smith ’17 has brightened the accessible tour hall of Thomas with student-painted murals.
As a long-time tour guide on campus, Gabrielle is very familiar with the layout of the College, but it wasn’t until she learned how to give accessible tours that she noticed the dull hallway between Thomas and Canaday Library.
Gabrielle fondly describes her great “pride and gratitude” for Bryn Mawr, especially as a first generation college student, but she was disappointed to find the accessible hallway so dreary.
She decided to take action: that day, she emailed President Kim Cassidy outlining her feelings about the hall.
“President Cassidy was able to set up a meeting with me that week without even referring me to her secretary,” says Gabrielle.
Soon after their meeting, President Cassidy put Gabrielle in contact with the College architects. Together with the Art Club, she organized a Presidential Pop-Up to create the colorful murals, which were designed by Art club co-presidents Gwendolyn Vary, Amber Master, and Kate Pellegrini. Many students turned out to contribute to the paintings, which now stand in the newly vibrant hallway. They feature the Bryn Mawr lantern and owls, autumnal trees on Senior Row, and the Thomas Cloisters.
“This was really important to me because it was not just a vanity project but an attempt to respect the humanity of the people who have to use the elevator in Thomas, including students, visitors, and honorary guests who we invite to our campus to perform and speak, to say that they are worth more than a maintenance hallway,” says Gabrielle.
Gabrielle hopes her work will encourage others to take action to make community spaces more inclusive.
She says, “We all need to be more vigilant and active in seeing change that needs to be enacted and making the right choice to do something about it; especially when we hold privilege and consider ourselves ‘allies,’ we must remember that being an ally is not an identity but an action, and I hope to see more action on the part of those who care about our community. I would like to thank the many people who already make these actions a part of their daily lives at Bryn Mawr.”