METADATA FOR EMTAF
Liora Beer, 65; helped artists, social entrepreneurs launch careers
Ms. Beer was an artist and founding executive director of Artmorpheus and the Fairmount Innovation Lab.
By Marvin Pave
Liora Beer was a fashion designer in New York City, a painter in Vermont, and a sculptor in her South Boston studio before changing the direction of her life — and the lives of others.
“Working in her studio alone was ultimately not enough for Liora. She was too much of a people person,” said Felicia Douglis, a close friend who had been a classmate at Boston University. “Liora so wanted to make a difference in the world.”
In 2009, Ms. Beer became the founding executive director of Artmorpheus, and in 2015 was founding executive director of its major program, the Fairmount Innovation Lab.
With headquarters at the Boston Center for the Arts, Artmorpheus provides workshops, one-on-one technical assistance, and resources for artists to build sustainable careers. The Fairmount Innovation Lab, in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner, provides training and mentors to underrepresented artists and creative and social entrepreneurs, most of whom are women and minorities.
Ms. Beer, who also formerly served as special assistant and business manager for the city of Boston’s business development office, died of cancer March 2 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She was 65 and had lived in the Ashmont Hill section of Dorchester since 1979.
While working for the city from 2001 to 2009, her accomplishments included launching an online business resource guide for entrepreneurs and a program called the Business of Being an Artist.
Those, and other related initiatives, prepared her for the transition to running her own new ventures.
“She was completely devoted to making the Lab, and everyone involved with it, succeed,” Douglis said. “It was the perfect combination of everything she did so well — come up with a vision, determine what was needed to make it grow and flourish, and figure out how to inspire just the right people to work with her to make it happen. She was a mover and shaker in all the best ways.”
When Jessicah Pierre, a University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate, was trying to form a network for women of color, she turned to the Fairmount Innovation Lab and Ms. Beer for advice.
“I needed guidance and experience, and I was accepted into the Lab program,” recalled Pierre, who lived nearby and stayed on to help Ms. Beer with e-mail communication and newsletters. Pierre was given permission to hold her fledgling group’s board meetings and workshops at the Lab. She eventually founded Queens Company, which hosts events promoting personal growth, health and wellness, professional development, and financial empowerment.
“I didn’t have any business experience at first to bring to the table, but Liora knew what I was trying to accomplish, and we still use the Lab as a meeting place,” Pierre said. “She inspired me and she lit a fire in me I didn’t know I had.”
Born in Israel, Ms. Beer was the daughter of Marcus Beer, a civil engineer, and the former Ruth Levy, who founded kindergarten classes in that country.
Ms. Beer’s family moved to Caracas and then to Wilmington, Del., where she graduated from high school. She attended the Parsons School of Design in New York City before moving to Boston to attend BU, from which she graduated in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
While a student at BU, Ms. Beer had an appointment with a philosophy professor, who was an hour late. While waiting, she chatted with David Weingarten of Aliquippa, Pa., who was a graduate assistant to the professor.
Weingarten, now first justice at Roxbury Municipal Court, remembered that “she had the most beautiful, deep, soulful eyes. They seemed to smile at me. I was completely smitten with her and I told my roommate I had just met the woman I was going to marry.”
They did, in 1980, and six years later, Ms. Beer was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. She spent seven months in Germany and around that time began sculpting — first out of clay, then out of steel and glass.
“Her work was beautiful — glass and steel tables, and abstract pieces made of large pieces of steel,” her husband said.
In the early 1990s, Ms. Beer founded and organized Hecho a Mano, or Made By Hand, a nontraditional alternative to job training in Dorchester for a dozen women who made money by selling pins and earrings they had crafted.
Ms. Beer, who started the program with $300 of her own money, told the Globe at the time that she wanted to offer women options beyond clerical work or flipping burgers. She recruited the women from homeless shelters and adult education programs.
She told the Globe in 1993 that she drew inspiration for the program from her experience as a mother, when little time was available to pursue artwork. “A lot of these women, if they had to go out and get a job, they would not be able to do very much more than domestic work,” Ms. Beer said in an interview then. “They really haven’t been able to envision themselves as having very much. Traditionally, the skills women are good at are not very highly valued or paid.”
Ms. Beer “was never flustered in the middle of chaos,” her husband said. “She thrived in it. And she was fearless in speaking her mind or acting to correct what she thought was wrong.”
After Artmorpheus was invited to participate in MassChallenge,
a competition and accelerator for startups, Ms. Beer believed that the kinds of resources her program provided should be available to entrepreneurs in the most economically disadvantaged areas of Boston.
“Talk about chaos,” her husband recalled. “She hustled and cajoled, slowly and tirelessly built relationships, and worked literally around the clock to pursue her dream that creative entrepreneurs everywhere should have a real chance to turn their ideas into practice.”
In her resume, Ms. Beer said that the Fairmount Innovation Lab had provided more than 500 people with business support.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Beer leaves two daughters, Liza of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Talia of Chicago; and two brothers, Rafael of Van Nuys, Calif., and David of Pittsburgh.
A private service has been held and a public memorial service will be announced. Burial was in Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston.
“Liora saw possibilities for making positive change where some others couldn’t, and then she would just go for it,” said Jill Carrier, a friend and an Artmorpheus consultant. “Many who have participated in FIL programs have told me that Liora believed in them and changed their lives.”
In a eulogy, Talia said that her mother “taught her children that we could do anything we set our minds to, anything we could dream of.” She added that her mother embodied that in her own life “until the very last minute she possibly could.”
Marvin Pave can be reached at [email protected].