Ruby Zhou ‘24 (she/her), Staff Writer

Ariel Urim Chung ‘21 (front middle) is rehearsing with her fellow cast members for The Refugees, a play written by Steve Kaliski ‘07. Courtesy of Kayla Edwards ’20.

Among the shimmering lights that meander on stage enters Ariel Urim Chung ‘21, a shining senior at Davidson College double majoring in Theatre and Computer Science. Though she has brightened up the artistic landscape of Davidson, her artistry began early-on in her high school career and was ultimately sparked by a suggestion from her counselor to take up theatre as an extracurricular. This simple advice thus reinvigorated her previously lackluster high school spirit. Though theatre had been the root of her creativity, her extensive background in a diverse range of artistic media blossomed from that very moment.

“A very amateur theatre,” Chung recalled, begun by an English teacher who had minored in said department, was her first introduction to this medium in her Korean international high school. However, this inkling of an activity “started to engage people into school activities” in a run-down and community-less school environment. 

“I saw a big difference,” Chung stated. “I saw […] many friendships, even with teachers, there was a lot of involvement, and I just saw this bonding experience.”

Realizing this impactful aspect of theatre, Chung began to take theatre more seriously as a result, and she “came to Davidson wanting to do theatre.” 

Her extensive work and experience as a theatre student in Davidson have landed her as the director of the last scene of Ubi Orta Pestilentia (the zombie show at the beginning of Fall Semester 2020). One of her most recent activities involves her as an actor in the She Kills Monsters play by Qui Nguyen showing on November 13th and 14th. In the Spring Semester of 2020, Chung has been chosen as one of the student directors and will put on the play Among the Dead, which is “about Korean comfort women and World War II PTSD.”

Of course, Chung’s creations don’t just end on stage. 

Feeling that the stories of Korean comfort women link to her home in South Korea, she decided to create art in both the media of theatre and fashion.

Calling it A Visual Poem on Confessions of Korean Comfort Women, Chung states that she wanted to “[find] these spaces and [create] a series of videos that theatrically remodel the confessions of Korean comfort women… I hope Korean comfort women are not just looked at as helpless victims, but courageous survivors who give voice to their trauma.” 

However, due to the issues regarding the pandemic, the project Chung had initially envisioned had to be put to a halt. Even though the designs were just about ready, she required assistance with photographing and displaying her work, but her fellow international students had been thrown into a chaotic mess due to foreign policies. Her passion for fashion stepped into the spotlight when she received the Davidson COVID-19 Creative Initiative Grant.

Then Chung had an epiphany: “I saw all these scraps of fabric that was a waste; yes, there is resources that go into creative projects, [but] I just thought […] with COVID that I was creating a lot of waste.” 

From there, she began to research the fashion industry, specifically on how “the fast fashion industry hurts a lot of people.” Taking this knowledge, Chung began to recycle fabric like her dad’s clothes and combined them all together into trendy articles of clothing.

Ignited by this new idea, she decided to begin Adopted, an organization that uses clothes that can no longer be donated and recycles them into new wearable pieces. It is currently only available locally at Davidson College; however, on each first Friday of the month, there is a new clothing line that comes out. 

From just a small sparkle in her high school, Chung was able to become well-versed in multiple media that have transcended the traditional definitions of an artistic career. She stated that her art is ultimately a way of spreading different messages across the mediums, finding stories to tell, and choosing those that connect with who she is. And of course, at the core of her art is that, as she has stated, “I love beautiful things… I like finding beauty in everything.”


Ruby Zhou ‘24 is an intended Economics and Russian Language and Literature major from Houston, Texas. She can be reached for comment at ruzhou@davidson.edu.