Rio Norte Junior High School eighth-graders, from left, Fernanda Reyes, Skylar Yearicks and Dianna Muralet work on their sections of the 20X6 foot wall mural which will be displayed at the Westfield Valencia Town Center community art wall. Dan Watson/The Signal

‘Creative life’ on display at Westfield

It’s a project unlike any other they’ve ever done before.

Consisting of 20 separate panels, seventh- and eighth-graders at Rio Norte Junior High have been asked to create a 6-foot-by-20-foot mural for a community wall at the Westfield Valencia Town Center.

The artwork is still in the works at the entrance to the main mall building near The Shops at The Patios portion of the Town Center.

Teacher Daryl Bibicoff brought this art project to his students as a way to teach collaboration, communication and expression. He gave the students some basic guidelines: The project must flow and the subject matter should be acceptable for a public display. Other than that, Bibicoff said, the students were on their own.

Working in groups, students spread out on floors and table tops throughout the classroom. Several worked on colorful and whimsical designs while others sketched faces and landscapes.

Rio Norte Junior High School visual arts teacher, Daryl Bibicoff, right, discusses the artwork by seventh-grader Daniel Tskhay as he works on his panel of a 20X6 foot wall mural which will be displayed at the Westfield Valencia Town Center community art wall. Dan Watson/The Signal

Not being able to put the pieces together while working was a challenge, they said, but it created exactly what their teacher had hoped for — students working together.

Seventh-graders Audrey Kim and Amanda Lee, both 13, were painting what appeared to be the hairline of their subject. Kim said she always enjoyed her art classes, and this project in particular, because of the group effort.

“We are only doing one piece and this will be so big,” Kim said.

Bibicoff has been teaching art at Rio Norte for the past 27 years, and acknowledges a soft spot for the junior high school age.

“You are getting them at an early stage of their creative life,” Bibicoff said. “They tend to be much more open-minded. They come (to Rio Norte) and it’s really the first opportunity to give them a chance to be creative.”

Bibicoff was fairly young himself when he started drawing. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, he enjoyed sketching as a child and took some private art classes.

In his senior year at Polytechnic High school, Bibicoff would jump on a bus and travel across town to attend a 3-hour graphic design program at West Valley Occupational Center. In the afternoon, he would hop back on the bus and finish his high school classes.

Rio Norte Junior High School visual arts teacher, Daryl Bibicoff, center, watches seventh and eight-grade students as they work on their sections of a 20X6 foot wall mural which will be displayed at the Westfield Valencia Town Center community art wall. Dan Watson/The Signal

He attended California State University, Northridge and earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a master’s degree in art.

Bibicoff loves to share his passion for art with his students and tries to take them on field trips throughout the year.

His class recently walked the downtown Los Angeles area, visiting museums and studios. He wanted to expose the students to a variety of cultural experiences including the downtown architecture.

Field trips can cost up to $2,400 to reserve buses and hire docents, so Bibicoff tries to find places that are much closer to home. Recently, the class visited the art department at College of the Canyons.

He believes this generation of art students will make a change in the community and encourage others to appreciate all that art can bring to their lives. Art, he said, can tend to be somewhat scary to some, but it’s just a matter of being open-minded, much like his students today.

“We are beginning to build a tremendous art culture (in Santa Clarita) and there is nothing to fear,” Bibicoff said. “This is a tremendous investment for our community.”

He applauds the city for their commitment to art, pointing out several areas that art can be found, including the mall and the libraries. He thinks the Laemmle theater is a great asset for downtown Newhall.

Rio Norte Junior High School seventh-grader Sebastian Ramirez, 12, works on his panel of the 20X6 foot wall mural which will be displayed at the Westfield Valencia Town Center community art wall. Dan Watson/The Signal

Once he retires from teaching, Bibicoff hopes to be more involved in the community art movement. He likes to tell his students that an appreciation of art will enhance their lives.

“You can do art or you can have friends that do art,” Bibicoff said. “Either way, you can appreciate art and what it brings to your life.”

The students will be completing their art project in the months of March and April,

and hope to have it up at the Town Center by May. A reception is being planned and more information will be forthcoming, Bibicoff said.

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