The BPSI Ecker Fellows Program
Psychoanalysis and the Creative Arts

Director: Diane O’Donoghue, PhD
Chair, BPSI Division of Interdisciplinary Psychoanalysis

In the Spring of 2022 BPSI was awarded a grant from the New England Foundation for Psychoanalysis for a program in Interdisciplinary Psychoanalysis, to bring creative artists to BPSI to engage with psychoanalysis.

Called the “BPSI Ecker Fellows Program“, this yearly initiative will involve a small cohort of distinguished early-to-mid career professionals in the performing arts, who will be offered an opportunity for sustained study of psychoanalytic principles in order to deepen and enrich their creative endeavors. This will occur within a program of study tailored to each artist’s interests.

The Fellows’ year is an immersive experience in psychoanalytic ideas and engagement within the BPSI community. Fellows are invited to develop an individualized program of study with their mentors, who are BPSI members selected for their commitment and knowledge of the arts, ability to complement the Fellows’ interests, and their capacity to enrich and deepen an interdisciplinary dialogue. 

The areas of interest shared between psychoanalysis and the arts are rich and vast. It is our hope that the linkages the Ecker Fellows forge at BPSI will continue in several sites: amongst themselves, with the psychoanalysts with whom they share their year, and within their respective arts communities. The Ecker Fellows Program aims to develop into an established locus of interchange between psychoanalysis and the arts, for the benefit of both of these disciplines, as well as the larger community and ultimately  to strengthen connections to broader public engagements.

The 2023-2024 Ecker Fellows:

Aaron Helgeson

Aaron Helgeson is a composer whose recent choral cycle “The Book of Never”—commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for the Grammy Award winning choir, The Crossing—combines ancient hymns from the Novgorod Codex (a medieval book of Russian psalm chant overwritten hundreds of times by an excommunicated monk in early Ukraine) with contemporary texts by writers in various states of exile.

In 2016 he received an Ohio Arts Council Award for his “Snow Requiem,” an anti-cantata based on author David Laskin’s book The Children’s Blizzard about the Homestead-era snowstorm of the same name. He is also a scholar of creativity and mental health in the arts, frequently offering workshops in creative wellness. His 2021 article “The Doppelgänger Within: How Depression Hides in the Creative Process” discusses the way creative work can lead to mental health obstacles, documenting his own depression and methods that help him manage it. He serves on the advisory board of Creatives Care, a non-profit facilitating low-cost psychological treatment for performing artists. Aaron resides in New York, serving as Associate Professor of Composition and Music Theory at Montclair State University. Visit Aaron’s website.

Earl Lee

Winner of the 2022 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, Earl Lee is a renowned Korean-Canadian conductor who has captivated audiences worldwide. 2023-24 marks his second season as Music Director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and his third season as Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he has led in subscription concerts both at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood. Among many others, Earl has conducted the Toronto, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco Symphonies, New York and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestras and New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and is a frequent guest conductor at North America’s top conservatories.

He studied cello at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School and conducting at Manhattan School of Music and the New England Conservatory. He lives in New York City with his wife and their daughter. Visit Earl’s website.

Giselle Ty

Giselle Ty is a theater and opera director who specializes in experimental, interdisciplinary, and site-specific work. She has directed productions for Boston Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera (HGOco), Center for Contemporary Opera, the Peabody Essex Museum, West Edge Opera, NYU Tisch School of Drama, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.  Engagements as associate and assistant director include projects with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Festival, American Repertory Theatre, Gotham Chamber Opera, l’Opéra National de Bordeaux, and London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. 

Her recent staging of Erwartung transformed Schönberg and Pappenheim’s monodrama into a dance-theater piece for seven performers, and was praised as “riveting” (Opera News), “boldly revisionist”, and “superb” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Giselle studied orchestral music and art history at Northwestern University, and has trained in various theater techniques with former resident artists at the American Repertory Theatre, SITI Company, and l’École Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Visit Giselle’s website.

We are also pleased to announce the 2023-24 Ecker Faculty Mentors:

Stephanie Brody, PsyD is a Supervising and Training Analyst at BPSI and maintains a private practice in Lexington.  She is the author of Entering Night Country: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Loss and Resilience (Routledge, 2016), and has an ongoing interest in how daily life is affected by our sensitivity to mortality.  She does all her writing while listening to opera. Stephanie will be mentoring Giselle.   

Deborah Greenman, MD is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Cambridge on the faculty of the McLean Hospital/MGH Psychiatry Residency Program.  Her ongoing engagement with music – particularly vocal study and performance – enriches her life and her work. Deborah will be mentoring Earl.

Alfred Margulies, MD is a Training and Supervising Analyst at BPSI. Fascinated by artists’ gifts in seeing the world freshly, he has long pursued the nature of empathy and unconscious processes, how we might come nearer to another’s singular experiences and ways of being—and the creative uses of wonder. Al will be mentoring Aaron. 

Diane O’Donoghue, PhD,
Director, Ecker Fellows Program

A historian of visual cultures, Diane directs the Program for Public Humanities at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. She has been the Visiting Professor of Public Humanities at Brown, and for the 2023-2024 academic year will be a visiting fellow at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. An affiliate scholar and faculty member at BPSI, she is also Chair here of the Division for Interdisciplinary Psychoanalysis. 

Her writings often focus on the role of objects and spaces within the construction of early psychoanalytic ideas, and she is the author of On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious (2019). Visit Diane’s website.

Paul G. Ecker, MD

Paul Gerard Ecker, MD (1919-2002) was a remarkable man whose boundless curiosity and passion for learning spanned the spectrum of disciplines from the sciences to the arts. In addition to his intellectual talents and accomplishments, his greatest attributes were those one would recognize only in his company – his remarkable gentility, kindness, insight and patience in the care of his patients and his relationships with friends and family.

Born in Cleveland Ohio, he graduated from Case Western Reserve Medical School in 1944. He joined the Navy as one of the earliest Flight Surgeons and pioneered aviation medicine. After the war, he taught at The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York before completing his psychoanalytic training at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute in 1950. In that same year he married Henriette Juliette Dumas from St Jean, Quebec. They had two sons, Hendrik Michel (1952) and Christian Paul (1955). While in New York, he was a Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute where he designed a device to cool ultracentrifuges with liquid nitrogen.

During the Korean War he was called to serve as a Flight Surgeon and researcher outside Philadelphia where the Johnsville Naval Air Station housed the largest human centrifuge in existence. Virtually all the Mercury and Gemini astronaut candidates underwent centrifuge testing at Johnsville. He became an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a Teaching Analyst at the Philadelphia Institute for Psychoanalysis, serving a term as President. A voracious reader who studied church history, philosophy and neurosciences, he spoke three languages and could read Latin. He had a lifelong passion for art, cultivating relationships within the art world and becoming an accomplished collector of Chinese ceramics and Gothic art.

Courtesy of Christian Paul Ecker, MD

The 2022-2023 Ecker Fellows Program

After a successful inaugural year of the Ecker Fellows Program, we are pleased to share the work that the fellows and mentors created.

The 2022-2023 Ecker Fellows

Meet the Artists

May 2023

Program Readings Syllabus, 2022-2023

To read any of the works cited, please contact Librarian Veronica Davis.

New England Foundation for Psychoanalysis

The New England Foundation for Psychoanalysis (NEFP) is privileged to to have provided the seed funding for the Ecker Fellows Program at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. The NEFP is a non-profit, 501(c)3 public charity that was founded in 1995. The NEFP’s mission is to use psychoanalytic knowledge in ways to benefit the community, and includes the Ecker Fund, which gives grants to support interdisciplinary psychoanalytic studies. The Ecker Fund was given to the NEFP to honor the memory of Paul G. Ecker, MD.