The cycle of art


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Steve McGuire, a University of Iowa professor of 3D design and metal arts, has ridden his bike across the country three times. He said when he's riding, with the vast expanse of the sky stretched before him, he can't go more than an hour without soaking in not only the beauty of the landscape but also the realization of his own diminished existence compared to it.

The isolation and awe-inspiring layout of the land he experiences when riding his bike influenced much of his art when he was younger. Today, when he's not out riding, he's teaching UI students how to find the beauty in bikes by helping them build one.

"We're so used to understanding a bicycle as this object that you purchase at a store," he said. "When it comes to building a bicycle, a whole other level of geometry and building precision is involved, and I think that's what you become aware of when you see these bikes because they are one of a kind."

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At 6 p.m. Friday, students and community members are invited to attend a silent auction to raise money for the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County's Youth Off-Road Riders Program and view a display of bikes built by McGuire's students. The auction will take place at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, 4213 S.E. Sand Road.

Several local businesses ranging from the Bike Library to Riverside Casino have donated products and gift certificates to the auction. All of the money raised will go toward the program designed to help local kids get involved in cycling.

Everything from the competition fees to the bikes themselves are provided for the kids. The program began in 2012 with seven kids. This year, that number has more than doubled, and program director Anthony Branch said the group wants to raise enough money to support more participants.

"I haven't turned any kids away nor will I ever turn any kids away from the program, because it's an opportunity for the kids to connect with something new and engage in a lifelong healthy activity," he said, later noting that the group does not have a specific dollar amount it wants to raise in mind.
Branch said displaying the bikes at the auction adds a new aspect to the event.

"We thought bringing in this element would connect the bike community with the general community and the art community as well because bikes are a form of art," he said.

UI graduate student Jim Busby, who is in his third semester taking a bike-building course with McGuire, will have two bikes of his displayed at the auction Friday. Busby, who studies ceramics, said one of the things that appeals to him about building bikes is the chance to make art anyone can use.

"I think it's very important to make art that's functional because it's something intimate that people can interact with on a daily basis," he said.

Since he started building bikes, he said, people who see him on his bikes notice how nice they look. He said he hopes the event on Friday will cause more people to embrace the idea of building bikes being a form of art.

"I think that something that art is supposed to do is introduce people to different media," he said. "I've really been able to talk to a lot of people since taking this class who are challenging themselves and looking at bike frames from a whole new perspective."

UI senior art student Hailey Kurtz, who is in her first semester in the class, said she wants to find ways to push the boundaries of what a typical bike looks like.

"For me, it is about how can I put a certain design twist on a bike," she said. "I would like to add some curves to the frame of my bikes, but there are only [so many] changes you can make to it so it will still support it structurally."

McGuire said that because of the level of math and construction involved in the course, it also appeals to students who are not art majors. Graduate student Ryan Grant, who studies biomedical engineering, said that in McGuire's class, he is able to apply concepts he learned in other courses.

"[In other classes] it's all theoretical, and it's nice to use the things I learn in the classroom in a real-life situation," he said.

He has completed one bike so far and he plans to finish one more bike frame for display on Friday.

In addition to this week's display opportunity, the UI is the first university in the country to have students invited to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Charlotte, N.C., on March 14. McGuire said he will take seven bikes and six frames his students made.

"It's important to note that some students are taking résumés to [the show] with the goal of talking with industry representatives," he wrote in an email.

Busby and Grant said they plan to find ways to incorporate building bikes in their futures, either as a career or on their own time. 

"I've really gotten into this bike thing," Busby said. "I plan on building bike frames for the rest of my life."

Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County Youth Off-Road Riders Program Auction
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, 4213 S.E. Sand Road
Admission: Free

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