The Hudson Valley is home to so many artists and arts organizations. It’s important to spread light and give representation to things that we find important, and for a lot of people in New Paltz, it’s art. We live in a kind of imagination vortex, there’s so much creative energy flowing around. While the war on art continues each and everyday, we at The Oracle are here to show you that there are so many opportunities to pursue what you love.
We have been talking a lot about Out Loud Hudson Valley (OLVH), an arts collective dedicated to creating queer friendly spaces and performaces for local LGBTQ+ community members. The events that they hold range from dance parties hosted by local artists and DJs, to extravagant drag performances that have many iconic stars.
The organization launched Friday May 20 of this year with a kick off dance party at The Hudson House and Distillery advertising that they were “bringing a fresh look and feel to the Hudson Valley’s LGBTQIA+ community.” So far the organization has definitely taken strides in elevating queer nightlife and culture that has never been introduced. The events that they host resembles an event you would find in Manhattan. They have a high production value, the events are extremely trendy and cater to a much younger energetic audience.
OLHV was created by James Marcotte, a prominent member of the queer community in the area. Not only because of his influence with the organization, but also because he was born and raised in New Paltz. I got the opportunity to sit down with Marcotte at Main Course, a favorite local restaurant of his, to discuss what it was like growing up gay in New Paltz and where the inspiration came from to create a queer arts organization.
Marcotte is a producer, host, DJ and doggy dad. Marcotte opened up the interview reminiscing about what it was like growing up in Hudson Valley. During the early 2000s “it was very different back then … but New Paltz has always been an open town,” Marcotte explained. Hearing him describe his experiences could teleport someone back to life in high school. We even reminisced on how a lot of the businesses on Main Street resembled the ones Marcotte had growing up.
“I was like a straight-C student … I was the class clown … I was basically a drag queen but I didn’t actually dress up.” He explained that while he was living in New Paltz, school ended early because the mayor was marrying same-sex couples a few years before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage federally. Growing up in New Paltz definitely allowed for Marcotte to open and accept to express himself fully. It provided the foundation for Marcotte’s journey to New York City in his early 20s.
I feel as though every small town queer has had the dream to go live in New York City. I definitely did, Kurt Hummel did and so did Marcotte. When he moved down to the city, he explained that it wasn’t for school, but the next chapter. In the city, James was able to use his DJing skills he learned while in high school, where he would work parties and weddings, to the streets of New York. “I started a drag brunch down there … I had like Bianca Del Rio was one of the hostesses for that … I had Pepermint, I had Monet X Change.” Marcotte was really able to immerse himself in the drag world, providing some of the most iconic drag queens now with their very first gigs. Besides hosting events and DJing, Marcotte also has a background in digital marketing. He explained that the digital marketing side of him is where ideas for events and advertisements come in to help when producing Out Loud Hudson Valley.
Marcotte moved back to the Hudson Valley after the pandemic and a brief moment of downsizing. Once again, he was able to use his experiences to propel himself further. When Marcotte returned to his hometown, he felt as though there were pieces missing. He explained, “It was like when I came up here, like I still work in digital marketing full time, but I wanted to do something that kind of brings in that experience and combines it with that creative side of me.”
Now, Marcotte is able to combine what he learned while living in the City with what he previously learned about living upstate to create a whole new queer experience.