Ute Sportschuetz has always been one to follow her passions. It started when she was very young, growing up in Germany.
“My father always said we have to choose a sport or a musical instrument, something to do ... so I spent my younger years as a springboard diver,” she said.
Sportschuetz was certainly good at it. She qualified for her nation’s Olympic team multiple times, though she never actually competed in the games.
“Since (the country) didn’t have much money to compete, they wanted to take divers who could do different lengths, and I was a 3 meter diver,” she said. “They took the people who could do 3 and 10 meters.”
After she finished competing, Sportschuetz continued to share her love of the sport through coaching. Teaching students, both in the pool and in the classroom, became another of her lifetime loves.
“I really just loved it,” she said. “We had a sports school with 400 kids. I actually met my husband at practice one day at the pool.”
After spending time serving as a city official, Sportschuetz and family went on to travel the world. They put down roots in the Middle East, staying in Dubai for 10 years.
“I taught there for a little while in a British school and helped a friend with her dentistry business ... I used my German organizational skills,” she said with a laugh.
The family later came to the United States, where her children both pursued law degrees. Her daughter, Tina, would eventually move to St. Simons Island and lure her parents to do the same.
“She sponsored us since she is a citizen. She opened Puppy Paradise here a few years ago,” Sportschuetz said. “Our son, Tim, lives in Vancouver now.”
Since moving to the Golden Isles, she jumped into a number of groups to make new friends. One of the places she has been able to do that is Glynn Visual Arts. There, not only has she forged new bonds, Sportschuetz has also been able to expand another of her life’s passions, painting.
“I had always painted since I was a kid. Later, I painted through furniture restoration,” she said. “But when I started getting involved with GVA, I saw an exhibit by Nora Parker and I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”
So Sportschuetz focused her energy and started work. She created a process that mixes bright colors and textures. Many of her themes include nature scenes, flowers or the ocean, but presented in an unconventional way.
“I love color and doing things that are more design based. I’m very messy when I paint, I have to cover up in a gown so paint doesn’t get everywhere,” she said.
But the resulting pieces are certainly worth the effort. And Sportschuetz enjoys being able to share them with her new community.
Sportschuetz, who paints under her maiden name Ute Kleeman, is currently planning an exhibit at A Moveable Feast, a restaurant with a gallery in Brunswick.
“We’re having an opening from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 21. There will be a lot of abstract things ... flowers and a wave called Irma,” she said. “I also have a website, utekleemann.com with some of my paintings. I really love being here among all of these artists ... I’ve lived all over the world and this little island has so many artists, I’ve never seen a place like it.”
When she isn’t painting, Sportschuetz can be found enjoying all her new home has to offer. She is a member of the Newcomers Club, enjoys playing tennis and cooking.
“I love it here, and I love that I’ve made so many new friends,” she said.
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Lindsey Adkison at email@example.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.