When asked to recommend a couple of songs to check out, Tiesha King, aka Secretia Noxious, was quick to shout out “Strangelove,” by Depeche Mode, and “Lucretia My Reflection,” by Sisters of Mercy. For those familiar, it should make perfect sense that she’s the host and mastermind behind the Black Hearts Ball.
The event, which returns for its fifth year Saturday (Feb. 25) at The Avenue Café, is yet another facet of The Dark Art of Michigan, a growing collective dedicated to keeping things both spectral and festive.
King suggests attendees don “party wear, prom, goth or avant-garde fashion — but it’s not required attire at the ball.” She describes the shindig as a “gothic prom.” Aside from drag performers and vendors, the dance party will also serve up live music from VAZUM, a Detroit-based “deathgaze” band.
“We’ll also have our performance art show and an assortment of Dark Art vendors set up selling all kinds of local art and more,” King said. “Every year, we crown a prom king and queen, which is open to anyone attending. Triple Goddess is also open for business and (paid) readings.”
While King, who also owns Thrift Witch, a spooky shop located at 108 César E. Chávez Ave., is the curator of the ball, she has a team of locals behind her helping the evening come together, including house DJ Mary X, photographer Kendall D. Lartigue, sound engineer Nell Brando and stage managers Jacob Nevin and Sally Hecksel. King said this support and supernatural synergy has led to rapid growth in the local arts community over the last few years, thanks to a string of ongoing events.
“When we started doing The Dark Art of Michigan shows at The Avenue Café, shows were quickly selling out, and we knew we should add more,” King said. “Every show we plan has a subgroup within our umbrella in mind. We started with Halloween. Then came the Dark Art Bizarre to showcase darker-themed artists. We started the Black Hearts Ball because we have a large goth and industrial crowd who attend.”
Since then, King and her crew have added the Heavy Metal Holiday Meltdown for the metalhead sect and a yearly Dark Art of Michigan Ambassador Pageant. (The ambassadors, including drag queen Tater Tot Noxious, will perform at Black Hearts Ball.)
“Even though all of these subgroups participate at every show, it’s been successful showcasing each group individually,” King said of the diverse yet united community.
It’s a tight-knit scene she’s been part of for more than a decade. She co-founded The Dark Art of Michigan alongside her partner, Sean Peters, a metal fixture whose resume includes stints in Lucifer’s Hammer, Summon, Wastelander, Dark Psychosis and Cavalcade.
“I’ve always helped put on local events where I live,” she said. “When I moved to Michigan in 2006, I started helping my boyfriend book shows under the name Beyond Dead Productions. When we changed venues and names, we added the art show as well as vendors and, finally, drag and burlesque. It’s unfolded very organically.”
As for her retail shop? It’s still stocked with new-to-vintage clothing, collectibles, jewelry and oddities.
“Thrift Witch is doing great,” she said. “We work with 40 local artists and makers and The Dark Art Market, which houses three small businesses: Re.Vamp.Fashion, Rainbow Riot! and Rosalarian. Customers have described it as going shopping in a time machine on Halloween.”
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