Steve McGuire

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Image of Steve McGuire
Area Head, Jewelry & Metal Arts
150D ABW

Academic Areas

I have enjoyed being a professor at the University of Iowa in the School of Art & Art History, since 1988.   In 1983 I completed and MA in Sculpture and then in 1990 I completed my PhD, with my doctoral work and dissertation focused on metaphor and the work of Paul Ricœur, as applied to a philosophical conceptualization of artmaking.  

In my role as Director of the School of Art & Art History I set, side by side, my passion for riding all the bikes I build and teaching students to build their own bikes, while leading an exceptional team of 16 staff and 30+ faculty as we teach 500 undergraduate majors and 70 graduate students, pursuing MFAs and PhDs. I am also Program Head of Jewelry & Metal Arts and Professor of 3D Design.

In 2010 I created a handmade bicycle curriculum, teaching Fabrication and Design: Hand Built Bicycle I, II and III.  Purposeful exploration is the essential condition for teaching, and for learning skills, concepts and tools including welding, modeling, design, fabrication, aesthetics, and materials. And what can be more purposeful than building a bicycle you can have for the rest of your life?! The University of Iowa Handmade Bicycle Program is comprised of art and engineering majors and has annually exhibited at the North American Handmade Bike Show, and Bespoked International.


The body is made to be creative and to make things that engage our being in the world. A bicycle is an exquisite way of exploring a landscape. I consider myself an adventurer who designs and builds bicycles. Adventuring is a knowledge process.

My current project, funded with a University of Iowa Arts and Humanities Award, is Design, Build, Ride, Between Volcanos and Glaciers.  For the project I build a bicycle (titled So It Goes) to use for a 600-mile east to west crossing of Iceland, Dalatangi to Látrabjarg . Látrabjarg is a promontory and the westernmost point in Iceland (West Fjords). It’s 601 miles from the starting point, Dalatangi, the easternmost point in Iceland (East Fjords). Traversing Iceland from one shore to the other is an expedition like no other. Consider this, Iceland has 32 active volcanic systems erupting every four years on average, owing to a unique geological setting: a volcanic hotspot with a magma plume underneath the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Ridge where two tectonic plates, Eurasia and N-America, are spreading apart.  July 2022, I traced the three volcanic zones in Iceland, riding from north central Iceland to the Reykjanes Peninsula. July 2023, I will ride this second route - east to west, Dalatangi  to Látrabjarg.  The direct east-west route is a rare coast-to-coast crossing, given the over 100 glacial water crossings that require strategic timing. 

The bicycle I made, and used will be exhibited at Bespoked, the international hand-built bike exhibition, in Dresden, Germany, in October 2023.

The concept “design, build, ride” centers on designing, then building, then riding a bicycle for a specific place and purpose.  This is work I’ve done over the last two decades, building 14 bicycles, and riding 19,000 miles over 270 plus days. I’ll research the conditions for say, the Iditarod Trail in late February and March, or the Central Highlands of Iceland, and then I’ll design a bike that works there, and by that, I mean the bicycle’s geometry and frame configuration matches the place and type of riding to be done there. Bottom bracket height, head tube angle, seat tube angle, reach, chain stay length, trail, and how to provide for the placement of bags. The bicycle frames are made of  titanium, a life-long material

Des Moines Register article.

Selected Works

Bicycle built by professor Steve McGuire
Design Build Ride lettering over a blue outline of Iceland
Design, Build, Ride 601 Miles to Látrabjarg