Aspen’s very own performing arts organization, Under Alya’s Umbrella, curates opportunities for local performing artists that inspire and bring positivity to the town. Here, Executive Director Alya Howe talks core values, surprising lessons and what’s next for the group.
What inspired you to start the company?
For seven years, all of my programming had a home in Aspen at Justice Snows. They were committed to cultivate more opportunities for local performing artists, and it was there I developed a robust and diverse performing arts series. When the restaurant changed ownership, I was asked by the community to continue the programming, and thus Under Alya’s Umbrella was born.
Alya Howe’s new work for Women’s Voices.
Can you tell me more about some core values of the company?
There are a few: empower local artists, create opportunities to perform, encourage original works and create opportunities for mentorship and artistic development.
What makes your company unique to other teams or studios?
We focus wholeheartedly on the performing arts and local artists’ opportunities to perform and develop. It is always about creating original pieces relevant to our community and the world at large. It has been so fun being able to bring different performing arts disciplines together to create one event that showcases a variety of voices.
What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
Ah, this is such a tough question—I truly love all of my projects. If I had to name a few I would say Vacuum, which was my first commission from Dance Initiative; The HEaRD, which came out right after the 2016 election results and was ripe for the moment; and Walls, which I performed at the Wheeler Opera House—which is my favorite house to create work for.
Since opening your company, what has been the most surprising lesson you have learned along the way?
I began my life as an artist in unspoken art forms like piano and dance… now I seem to excel the most in my positions coaching, mentoring and listening to storytellers. I guess the lesson would be to stay open and let life and the opportunities that are thrown at you lead the way. Say yes.
Howe at Collective Snowmass hosting storytelling for Writ Large, a performing art series from Under Alya’s Umbrella.
Are there any upcoming projects that I can buzz?
Always! Ending this year off, The Immigrant Voices with English in Action (a local nonprofit) will be at the Contemporary in Willits on Nov. 11. This is a live true storytelling event—modeled off of the MOTH—which I as part of Writ Large coach and host.