Two Garden City sisters create a mural for an Old Westbury elementary school in an upcoming episode of WNBC/4' s "George to the Rescue."
Shot Feb. 16-18 at the Holy Child Academy, the episode, scheduled to air in April, follows contractor-host George Oliphant as he assists Laura Pashayan, the school's art teacher, and Melissa Pashayan, an art teacher at Garden City Public Schools' Stewart School, as they create a colorful abstract in a stairwell to the cafeteria.
The project originated, recalls Garden City born-and-bred Laura Pashayan, 30, during a class she gave on murals. She and her students "created a really large piece of artwork, and I taught them the importance of murals and how they bring people together." Then about two months ago, "George called me and asked if we could team up and do a project for February — he didn't want to do anything in people's houses," the usual locales for his show's interior-design endeavors, "because of COVID."
Oliphant had worked with the sisters for his Oct. 17 episode, in which they painted a mural in the staff lounge of Northwell Health's North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. Head of school Art Viscusi approved a stairwell mural, "and so here we are," Pashayan says.
It encompasses "an entire staircase — 3½ walls," describes Melissa Pashayan, 35, who was born in Malverne and raised in Garden City. "It's a totally abstract mural. We were thinking just pops of color, to brighten up the days of the students as they walk down the stairs every day." Melissa's husband of 4½ years, contractor Anthony Iannucci, with whom she has daughters aged 1 and 3, "volunteered to make a showcase to hold artwork by the students" at the bottom of the staircase.
Melissa, Laura and middle sister Christina, a preschool occupational therapist, are the children of chiropractor Richard Pashayan and retired chiropractor Maria Pashayan, who now teaches health skills at Nassau County's Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).
Laura says she and Melissa "were just born with an innate desire to create. Ever since we were kids, we couldn't stop drawing. That's all we used to do. Sitting in front of the TV, I would draw 'Rugrats' characters." Interjects Melissa, "I liked 'Ren & Stimpy.’ "
All three siblings attended Garden City High School. Laura and Melissa went on to undergraduate and master's degrees in art from Adelphi University, also in Garden City, with Laura obtaining an additional master's, in art therapy, from Hempstead's Hofstra University. Before becoming an art teacher, Melissa worked in retail for fashion designer Betsey Johnson, attending New York Fashion Week for the brand.
She and Laura also teach art under the rubric The Art Academy of Garden City, and Laura wrote and illustrated the 2019 children's book "Clover's Voice" (FriesenPress).
Painting the Holy Child Academy mural proved particularly messy, Melissa allows. "We are actually eating pizza with hands [so paint-splattered] that you can't even see the color of my skin right now," she says, chuckling, during a phone call. "Like, paint on my hair, on my clothes…."
What Laura recalls most, however, was "George dancing on top of the scaffolds with no railings. It was funny. It was nerve-wracking. He's a character."