Beethoven and Mona Lisa take flight |

Beethoven and Mona Lisa take flight

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyGypsum Creek Middle School students, from left, Branden Olson, 14, Milaina Salaza, 14, and Cayla Marx, 14, admire the Colorado-themed art plane Salaza and Marx made as part of the "Wings of the World" project at the Eagle County airport.

GYPSUM ” If only all 747s were painted with giraffes, Buddhist temples, renaissance frescoes and crusty French bread.

Surrounding the baggage claim at Eagle County Airport are 30 two-foot wide plywood planes hanging from the ceiling, each covered in paintings and collages representing different countries.

Every day the airport sees passengers come in from all around the world and Nicole von Tempske, an art teacher at Gypsum Creek Middle School, wanted her students to illustrate that diversity.

“Aviation travel can connect us to the world,” von Tempske said. “So many students though have never been on an airplane, and some have never even been outside of this valley.”

The class chose to illustrate countries that participate in the winter Olympic games and countries that are frequent guests of Eagle County. The planes will be hanging from the ceiling through the winter.

Some of these flying pieces of plywood art can be instantly identified by the culturally iconic images we see in movies and Travel Network specials.

It’s easy to spot the plane representing England, which is covered with a collage of double decker buses, the Beatles, Big Ben and the red and blue of their flag.

Italy’s jet is illustrated with the art of the renaissance, with the coy smile of Leonardo DiVinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” as seen on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. You’ll also spot a gondola, a handful of grapes and a bowl of gelato ” all very Italian.

Mexico is decorated with sombreros, maracas and guitars. Spain has its bullfighters and sheets of red. China has a landscape of shrines, panda bears and the Ying Yang ” the now universal symbol of peace and harmony.

On France’s plywood airliner, you’ll see the Eiffel tower, the Arc de Triumph and a very tasty looking baguette. Brazil looks like a flying jungle. Germany’s plane is covered in sheet music, no doubt a homage to its rich heritage of classical composers ” a club including Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.

The United States gets a plane too. It features Abe Lincoln and a bald eagle.

And then there are those other countries ” ones that haven’t saturated the American mind with its images and culture. What would you make of a plane painted with nothing but green fields covered with sheep?

Spend a few minutes with a World Almanac though, and you might find that New Zealand lives and breathes sheep.

The plane for Austria is painted with more mountains and green hills, but the words “Sound of Music” line the top, letting us know this is the famed home of the Von Trapp family and setting for the Rogers and Hammerstein music.

How about an ancient Viking ship crashing through a sea of violent waves, a hillside of pine trees and snow capped mountains and the words “vel komen” ” meaning “welcome” in this particular language?

Eight grader Branden Olson painted this plane, a tribute to Norway.

“We learned about their culture ” how they view things,” Olson said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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