NASA People

Center Snapshot: Karen Freidt
Snapshot: Karen Freidt. Image above: Karen Freidt holds art made from junk, an example of a bent for creativity passed on by her mother. NASA/Sean Smith

Denise Lineberry

Karen Friedt sees potential in what others may consider junk or a problem when it comes to her artwork and to life in general.

"I love to help others see the world differently and find value in things that they may take for granted," she said.

As the Navigation Center team lead and as an artist, Freidt enjoys being creative and innovative. She considers her career at NASA Langley a "perfect fit."

Freidt holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and worked at a Washington advertising agency before working for the Army and then for NASA for the last 21 years as a print and Web designer, team facilitator and communications specialist. “A solid foundation and a place where I could be proud to work was important, so I chose to apply and stay with what I believe is the most creative agency in the government, NASA,” Freidt said.

Her mother was an artist and her father an engineer. "I was taught the importance of structure, the value of creativity and the essential balancing act between the two," Freidt said.

She enjoys her work at NASA Langley because of the resources made available: "The people, constant learning environment and challenges make it all worth it."

Freidt loves to paint and create. "I can only draw boxes, not stay in them," she said.

When away from work, Freidt is constantly thinking about innovative ideas to use at Langley. And when at Langley, she is constantly looking for "ways to make positive things happen without a lot of resources."

She has created approximately 100 paintings over the past two years. Several of her pieces have been sold or displayed in the Charles H. Taylor Arts Center (CHTAC) in Hampton.

She enjoys making something from nothing. Or even something from "junk." The ability to do so is possibly a trait earned from her mother, who grew up with '"very little" and taught Friedt to accomplish her dreams by being innovative.

She passes on her creativity through the family line, along with her husband, Wade Mickley of the Media Services Branch. Freidt and Mickley are members of the Hampton Arts League.

Freidt's youngest daughter, Rachel, is an active member at the CHTAC at age 13 and one of her paintings was featured in the Daily Press. Oldest daughter Jessica is a freshman at The Corcoran School of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., as a result of scholarships received for her artistic ability.

She has also taught her daughters to see problems as opportunities.

After a divorce, it was a priority to Freidt to make sure that both of her daughters knew that even difficult times could turn into rewarding experiences. "Today, we have both remarried, share the children, family and friends, live a mile apart and all get along," Freidt said.

Freidt also turned a bad experience into a good one when she received a pink slip during a Reduction in Force (RIF) while employed at Fort Eustis. She decided then to pursue a career at NASA.

"It helped me realize how much a seemingly negative experience can turn out to be the best thing to happen to you," she said. "All things good and bad are gifts."

And she hopes to continue on to make her family's art a gift for others.

"I’d like to retire and own a gallery with my family that gives back a percentage of the profits to a good cause," she said.