Acknowledged as a significant writer and humanitarian, Lillian Smith held at the center of her being her function as a creative artist. She also deeply valued the power of the arts to transform the lives of all human beings. From what became her home base in the mountains of North Georgia she wrote major works such as the novels Strange Fruit and One Hour and non-fiction works such as Killers of the Dream, The Journey, Now is the Time, and many essays, reviews, and articles. She worked tirelessly in support of human rights at a time when many of her fellow Southerners chose silence and some violence.
As Lillian Smith's values and beliefs in the creative spirit and human rights fueled her life they also gave purpose to the nature of both teaching and learning at Laurel Falls Camp for Girls, the camp she directed for many years. It was her expressed wish that such opportunity and activity would have future life. It was with her vision in mind that the concept of an artist's retreat on her home site was developed As a continuation of her goals and in appreciation of her work and life, the LES Center seeks to provide the time and space for others to explore their creativity and their connection to the world.
In the 1920s Lillian Smith's parents established a summer camp for girls in the town of Clayton, Georgia. Lillian experienced the camp first as a counselor and later became its Director. She developed unique and progressive programs that made it renowned in the Southeast and the rest of the nation. She wished to provide a foundation for young women, a place which would enable them to see a broader horizon for their interaction with the world. This was an important part of her life's purpose.