A View From the Mountain Newsletter

Page 1

Sping 2020

A View From the Mountain a newsletter from the Lillian E. Smith Center

This Issue 2 Laurel Falls Camp at 100 4 “Dope With Lime” Writer-in-Service Award 5 Gabriele Stauf Residency Award LES in the News 6 Visual Artist Residency Award 7 Residency Experiences 8 Spring Donor List

Planned Giving

Laurel Falls Camp at 100


his year marks the 100th anniversary of Laurel Falls Camp. Lillian E. Smith’s father, Calvin, opened the camp in 1920, and it was the first private camp for girls in the state of Georgia. “Miss Lil,” as the campers called her, took over as the director of the camp in 1925 when she returned to Clayton from China due to her parents’ ill health, and she ran the camp till it closed in 1948. As director of Laurel Falls Camp, Smith shaped the lives of countless women, both in the moment and in the future. The girls that went to the camp went on to grow into adulthood, relaying what they learned from Miss Lil to their own families. This generational legacy points to the importance of Laurel Falls Camp in the shaping of countless lives. Initially, Smith did not want to take over the camp. But as the years went on, she came to see her role as camp director as a way to educate the campers and enact social change. Writing to counselors before the camp opened in 1932, Smith told them that the camp was much more than sports and activities: “Camp—a good camp—has progressed far from the old idea of a summer camp of sports. Unless we produce behavior changes in our children, we have done nothing; unless we take the most scrupulous care of our children’s health and safety, we are failing the trust which parents have in us.”

Planned gifts are a perfect way to provide fellowships for artists in residence at the Center or scholarship funds for students enrolled in the Lillian E. Smith Scholars Program at Piedmont College.

FOR MORE INFORMATION piedmont.edu/endowment-planned-giving Mark Elam, AVP for Development & Alumni Affairs melam@piedmont.edu | 706-894-4214 Matthew Teutsch, Director of Lillian Smith Center mteutsch@piedmont.edu | 706-894-4204

LES Advisory Board James F. Mellichamp, Chair Nannette Curran Nancy Smith Fichter Margaret Rose Gladney Sue Ellen Lovejoy Susan Montgomery Tommye Scanlin John Siegel Stewart Smith W. Austin Smith John H. Templeton Bill Tribby

them the importance of helping campers grow physically, psychosexually, socially, intellectually, and creatively. She pointed out that discussions of religion, race, and segregation cause friction between individuals, but they are important and work toward social growth, “a growth outward to other people” that leads to accepting others and “identifying ourselves with their needs.”

For Miss Lil, the “behavior changes” involved much more than whether or not the campers obeyed their parents, got good grades, or adhered to the social standards of the time. The changes involved questioning the myths that supported the social standards and the myths that told them they were superior to others. She wrote to William Haygood, the director of the Division of Fellowships, Julius Rosenwald Fund, in 1941, about the impact that she hoped the camp would have on both those who attended it and future generations. She told Haygood, “I sometimes think perhaps our work with girls who will some day be the women leaders of the South may be of some definite value. We have this year, as usual, worked on many genuinely interesting projects with them in racial relationships, and there is always up here much discussion of the South and its problems.” The girls at the camp Smith encouraged would partake in the typical camp activities the campers to such as horseback riding, discuss everything, tennis, swimming, and other outdoor activities. and they did. They would also talk about various topics ranging from poetry, music, and literature to psychology, sex, and race. Smith encouraged the campers to discuss everything, and they did. In this process, she learned, as she wrote to an English teacher in 1959, “more from the campers” than from psychologists and child specialists “because I tried not to put barriers between me and them and we talked about everything: our bodies, sex, death, life, God, our parents, hate, love, fear, anxiety, guilt, and beauty.” These discussions worked, as Smith noted again and again, to help campers build bridges to others. Writing to counselors before the start of camp in 1946, she stressed to

2 | A View From the Mountain

In “Children Talking,” a piece she wrote for the October 1945 issue of Progressive Education, Smith shows the process and results of the pedagogy she deployed at Laurel Falls Camp. The essay is a conversation between Miss Lil and the campers. They talk about sex, religion, race, and the world. They talk about the bombs that murdered countless individuals in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One camper asked, “If we had been in Hiroshima at a summer camp with other children that bomb would’ve fallen on us?” Smith simply replied, “Yes.” Another camper pointed out that the children, just like those at the camp, had nothing to do with the war and that the actions didn’t “seem quite fair.” Miss Lil sat with the children talking about how to build bridges across the world to people in Hiroshima, and she eventually told them, “Sometimes geography—and distance—make it easier not to care.” The distance between individuals could be across oceans or only a few miles away. After the murders of George and Mae Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcom in Monroe, GA, in 1946, Miss Lil and the campers discussed the lynching. Smith wrote to the campers’ parents about those conversations and how the campers asked if the couples had children and “how those children are feeling, and who are looking after them.” They asked if the children would “grow up to be good citizens”

“I hope that the idea of Laurel Falls will not die. I want to believe that we have started a chain reaction of dreams that will go on touching child after child in our South.” and how they felt about America. These were tough questions to answer, and Smith worked to answer them both at the camp and in her writing. After 28 years, Laurel Falls Camp closed. Smith’s writing, and perhaps her fears about the reaction of parents to the forthcoming publication of Killers of the Dream, led her to cease operations of the camp. The decision, as she noted, did not come easily, and she reiterated the importance of what campers learned and the impact those lessons would have on future generations. She wrote, “I hope that the idea of Laurel Falls will not die. I want to believe that we have started a chain reaction of dreams that will go on touching child after child in our South.”

Mountain echoes through the years. Someone told me recently that on two separate occasions, while reading the newspaper in the airport, that she read the obituaries of two women who pointed to the impact that Laurel Falls Camp had on their lives. I’ve talked with former campers who have said the same thing. I spoke with one former camper who, even though she only went for four weeks in 1943 and went to another camp after her mother read Strange Fruit and told her never to speak Miss Lil’s name in the house again, told me about the impact that Miss Lil and the camp had on her even in that short period. Please join us in celebrating the 100th anniversary of Laurel Falls Camp!

Laurel Falls Camp has not died. Even though the camp closed in 1948, its memory remains. The impact of what Miss Lil and others accomplished on Old Screamer

We would love to hear your stories, memories, and the impact of the camp on your life or on those you know. Email us at LESCenter@piedmont.edu



10 0

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using #laurelfalls100.

A View From the Mountain | 3

“Dope with Lime” Podcast Named after Lillian E. Smith’s column that she wrote in the pages of the journal that she co-edited with her partner Paula Snelling from 19361945, “Dope with Lime” showcases interviews with scholars, artists, readers, and more. Colloquially, dope with lime referred to cutting the sweetness of CocaCola with lime juice. In her bloglike columns, Smith used biting satire to comment on Southern life and letters. The podcast carries on the conversational nature of Smith’s editorials by having discussions about wide-ranging topics from teaching Smith in Europe to artist residencies at the center. The first six episodes of “Dope with Lime” provide unique perspectives on Smith and the work being done at the LES Center. We talk with Michał Choiński about his trip to the LES Center last fall and about teaching Smith in Poland. With Julie Buckner Armstrong, we discuss her current book project and her residency at the LES Center. With Andrew Beck Grace, we speak about how Smith’s Killers of the Dream impacted and informed the NPR podcast White Lies which he co-hosted with Chip Brantley. We also speak with Ben Railton about discovering Smith and presenting at last October’s symposium, with Eileen Boris, about the reference to Smith’s Strange Fruit in Chester Himes If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), and with Nicole Robinson about her work as a narrative medicine coordinator and writing at the center. We are currently organizing season two of “Dope with Lime,” which we hope to premier sometime this fall. Until then, check out season one on SoundCloud, iTunes, or where ever you get your podcasts. The “Dope with Lime” logo was designed by Piedmont College student, Jenna Wendell, Class of 2021.

4 | A View From the Mountain

Sarah Higinbotham Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award


r. Sarah Higinbotham is the 2020 recipient of the Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award. Higinbotham co-founded and co-directs Common Good Atlanta, an initiative that provides accredited college courses in men’s and women’s prisons throughout Georgia. Founded in 2008, Common Good Atlanta works in four Georgia prisons four days a week, and has a waiting list for students and volunteers. Higinbotham has worked with some of her students at Emory to extend Shakespeare studies to combat veterans through “The Feast of Crispian.” She has also spoken to policymakers, judges, and media on the ways that incarceration affects not just those who are incarcerated but also their families and children. About her pedagogy and work, Higinbotham said, “When teaching the humanities — either within prisons or without — I find authors from William Shakespeare to Franz Kafka asking us to consider, ‘What does it mean to live in a community with others? What are my obligations?’ So immersion in the humanities contributes to a greater sense of citizenship, a deepened ability to emphasize, and a broader understanding of myself. At the core of the study of humanities, then, is human dignity. I am always seeking to maintain dignity as a throughline in my teaching, writing, and in my life.” Higinbotham will receive a $500 honorarium, a $500 travel stipend, and a two-week residency at the Center. This award is sponsored annually by a generous gift by Sue Ellen Lovejoy, a member of the LES Center Advisory Board. It is open to U.S. residents working to advance writing through public service careers or volunteer work. Eligible activities include, but are not limited to, arts education, literacy instruction, prison arts and education, English as a second language instruction, art-related therapies, etc. While the work of writing instructors and volunteers is vital to the community, the demands often limit personal writing time. This award provides an opportunity for those writers who, like Lillian E. Smith, recognize “the power of the arts to transform the lives of all human beings.” Congratulations, Sarah Higinbotham.

Lillian E. Smith in the News

Eric Solomon Gabriele Stauf Residency Award


r. Eric Solomon is the 2020 Gabriele Stauf Residency Award recipient. Solomon teaches courses at Emory’s Oxford College in American Studies. Last year, he taught “Queer Intersection, American Outlaws.” In the course, Solomon teaches writers such as James Baldwin and Gloria Anzaldúa along with trans cultural figures such as Kate Bornstein. He integrates Smith’s thinking and writing into the course as well. His project explores, as he writes, “the ‘queer’ side of Smith’s worldview through her relationship with long-term partner Paula Snelling as well as her connection with James Baldwin and other queer figures.” On receiveing the award, Solomon said, “I am honored to be the recipient of the 2020 Gabriele Stauf Residency Award. I cannot wait to spend some muchneeded time on the mountain to explore Lillian E. Smith’s connection to a queer activist tradition. James Baldwin writes, ‘the purpose of education . . . is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions.’ I am excited to spend a couple of weeks looking at the world from Screamer Mountain, as Lillian E. Smith and Paula Snelling once did.” The Gabriele Stauf Residency Award is an ongoing annual opportunity that provides a complimentary two-week retreat at the Center for an educator who has a minimum of six years of experience and who is working on a project that would benefit from a residency. This award also provides the winner with a copy of A Lillian Smith Reader, edited by Margaret Rose Gladney and Lisa Hodgens, published by UGA Press. Gabriele Stauf, Professor Ermerita of English at Georgia Southwestern State University, has enjoyed several residencies at the LES Center through the years. She sponsors this annual award because she understands the value of time and solitude required for creative pursuits.

During January and February, our director, Dr. Matthew Teutsch, spoke with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and Dr. Keri Leigh Merritt about Lillian E. Smith and his upcoming book on Augusta-born author Frank Yerby. In “How Lillian Smith ‘Seared the Conscience of White America,’” Teutsch talked with GPB’s Leah Felming about Smith’s work and correspondence with Martin Luther King, Jr. and about her bestseller Strange Fruit (1944). Talking with Merritt for her show Merrittocracy, Teutsch discussed Smith’s time as the director of Laurel Falls Camp and the impact she had on the young campers. As well, he talked about the connections between Smith and Yerby, especially the ways that they both confronted the myths of whiteness. Teutsch continued this exploration in Frank “Yerby & Lillian Smith: Challenging the Myths of Whiteness,” a piece he wrote for The Bitter Southerner. Of Smith and Yerby, Teutsch wrote, “They travel with me into the classroom, online, and down main street, speaking to me in my daily interactions with those I encounter.” Along with these appearances, Dr. Ben Railton (Fitchburg State University) published a piece in The Saturday Evening Post entitled “Considering History: How Lillian E. Smith Modeled a Southern Alternative to White Supremacy.” Railton writes about Smith’s career dismantling myths about the Old South, chronicling Smith’s work as director of Laurel Falls Camp; the publications of Strange Fruit and Killers of the Dream; her work with the Civil Rights Movement; and her continued importance. He concludes by asserting, “It is long past time that Lillian E. Smith, one of our most inspiring and impressive figures, occupied a central place in our collective memories.” Click the linked text to find each of these works online.

A View From the Mountain | 5

Teena Wilder

McClure-Scanlin Visual Artist Residency Award

Educational Resources We at the Lillian E. Smith Center are working to provide pedagogical resources and materials to educators and students. Currently, we have audio and video resources on our website. These contain recordings of Smith reading selections from her work and clips of Smith from various sources. At this time, we are producing a Library Guide on Smith and her works. This guide will include five works by Smith ranging from one of the Laurel Leaf newsletters she sent to the parents of campers to a speech she delivered to graduates at Kentucky State College. Each entry will contain a brief introduction to the piece, five questions for students to consider, and some activities for students to complete based on the reading. There will also be photos and other items available. Finally, our director, Dr. Matthew Teutsch, constructed a short graphic memoir on Smith which can be used in the classroom to introduce students to Smith’s life and work. On his blog, he has detailed how he constructed the work and the quotes that he used.

6 | A View From the Mountain


eena Wilder is the recipient of the 2020 McClure-Scanlin Visual Artist Residency Award. Wilder is a multidisciplinary artist and writer from rural Summerton, South Carolina. She currently attends the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design focusing on New Studio Practice with a double minor in Humanities and Art History. Wilder has been a Yale Norfolk School of Art Summer Residence recipient and received the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship. She has had numerous exhibitions in South Carolina and Wisconsin, and her work has appeared in publications such as Jet Magazine. Wilder’s work, as she puts it, “seeks to disrupt and redirect space, time, and form through video, sculpture, performance, and critique.” She focuses on the ways that “the black body utilizes being an inconsequential spectacle as a way to navigate restricting systems and invisibility.” On receiving the award, Wilder said, “After living in the Midwest, this award gives me an opportunity to return to the South and rebuild my relationship with my southern body and home. I will have time to reflect on how my body has navigated cultural migration and translation, gaining a better understanding of how my black body is able to move in a restricted space and system. I’m excited to engage and perform with the environmental setting of the residency, really implementing movement studies relating to diaspora and environmental racism.” The McClure-Scanlin Award is made possible through a generous gift to Piedmont College from Tommye Scanlin and her husband, Thomas, who are giving the award in honor of their mothers. Tommye is a member of the LES Center Advisory Board and a long-time LES Center Fellow. The award recipient is selected in consultation with faculty members of the Piedmont Department of Art and receives a complimentary two-week residency at the Center.

Anna Weinstein on Her LES Center Residency Experiences March 30, 2020 There’s a meme going around, a joke about discovering that your typical daily lifestyle is actually called “quarantine.” I imagine a lot of writers relate to this. We writers tend to work best in isolation. Sure, there are times when I appreciate seeing people bustling around me as I write, headphones in my ears, life unfolding in real time as I create my own version of reality on the page. But for the most part, I write in solitude. When I’m at home, this happens in the early hours of the day, when it’s still dark outside, before the boys wake up and the house fills with sound. For years I used to go to Miami to find the space to write. I would fly down, lock myself in a hotel room, and emerge four days later with a rough draft of a script. After a while, though, that started to feel like a silly waste of travel time, so I began going to the Marriot Suites in Midtown Atlanta. And then last summer, I discovered the Lillian E. Smith Center… Five separate times in the past year, I’ve gone to work at the same cabin at the Lillian E. Smith Center in North Georgia. I typically stay for five days at a stretch in Wiggie. I write in the bed, sometimes at the desk, sometimes in the comfy chair by the fireplace, sometimes on the deck. But mostly, in the bed. It’s a tiny cabin, one room with a kitchen area, a sitting area, and a bathroom. There are always fresh flowers on the table when I arrive. The room is clean, wood paneled walls, the same familiar green sheets on the bed. It feels like home to me. The TV is about 100 years old (I’ve never turned it on), and there’s barely even enough room to pace around. (Although one time I got 20,000 steps from walking in small circles around the inside of the cabin! Tiny, old-fashioned, nothing fancy. But it’s like heaven to me. I crave going. I miss it when I’m not there. I do amazing work there. My brain is open, and my fingers move fast. I’ve even gotten a little superstitious about it. Like I fear I must be there in order to write well. I was supposed to head up to the mountains recently but decided not to travel during this time of self-quarantine. My husband said I should go anyway. I would never even need to leave the cabin! Just one stop on the way there to gas up the car… I plan on returning soon. I have work to do. So much work, and I know just how to do that work at the cabin. Thank you, Dear Lillian, for providing me the space to work in peace. I love your space.

Anna Weinstein Screenwriter

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian E. Smith The generosity of spirit shown by your support at this unique time is the bedrock of what is good about humanity. To give to the Lillian Smith Center, visit www.piedmont.edu/giving-les-center

DONOR LIST S P R I N G 2 0 2 0 Laurel Circle $1,000+ Anonymous Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Inc. Christopher Curran James P. Jones Nancy Fichter Margaret R. Gladney Tommye M. Scanlin

Tom Callahan Lynda J. Davis Barbara A. Goleman David Fore Victor Nunez Patricia Phillips Dolly Ritchie Scott Simpson Sarah Wright

Benefactor $500+ Christopher M. Burnside Ann L. O’Connor William L. Tribby

Patron $1+ Ellen Ashdown

Promoter $200+ Darien E. Andreu Patricia Bell-Scott Mary Anne Hoffman David Nolan Rebecca Saxanoff Sponsor $50+ Edward D. Ariail

In Honor Of *The following gifts were made to honor someone. Nancy and Robert Fichter James P. Jones Patricia K. Knowles Rose McCall Sherrill W. Ragans Mary Stevens Carol A. Wood

Kyes Stevens Mary Stevens Alabama Prisons Arts and Education Project Mary Stevens Memorial *The following gifts were made in memory of a loved one or friend. Hollie Antrim Nita DeNicola Wilbur Bailey Bettina B. George Annie Peeler Carol A. Wood

P.O. Box 10 | Demorest, GA 30535 | 706-894-4204 piedmont.edu/lillian-smith-center

Donors from January 1, 2018 - March 10, 2019. Please let us know if we inadvertently omitted anyone.