Two Palo Alto leaders to be honored with 2016 Athena Awards

Kienzle, Gonzalez have increased reach of public art and affordable-housing programs

Karen Kienzle, director of the Palo Alto Art Center, and Candice Gonzalez, president and CEO of Palo Alto Housing, are the respective winners of the 2016 Athena Award and the 2016 Athena Young Professional Leadership Award, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce has announced.

The Athena Award honors women who demonstrate excellence and creativity in business, contribute to the quality of life in their communities and help other women realize their leadership potential. The Athena Young Professional award honors emerging leaders.

Candice Gonzalez

Karen Kienzle
Kienzle and Gonzalez will be honored at the annual Athena Awards luncheon at the Garden Court Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Kienzle oversees the city-run organization that seeks to inspire people's inner artists through a diverse range of exhibitions, public programs, educational events and art classes. Annually, the Art Center serves more than 100,000 adults and children.

Kienzle provides vision and direction for all aspects of the Palo Alto Art Center and provides leadership to the nonprofit Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. With the Foundation, Kienzle worked to raise $4.1 million in a capital campaign and helped guide the Art Center's renovation and subsequent reopening in 2012.

Contributing her experience and passion for audience development, community outreach, collaboration and marketing, Kienzle has expanded the Art Center's impact in the community, according to the Chamber. Among her many efforts, she oversaw the On the Road program, which offered classes and arranged for art installations in the community during the Art Center's renovation.

Kienzle's approach to programming reflects her commitment to diversity in the context of ethnicity, gender, age and media, the Chamber stated. She is a graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Institute at the Claremont Graduate University and this fall is attending the Stanford Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders. She received the Silicon Valley NextGen Emerging Leader award in 2012 and was selected in 2014 to attend the National Arts Strategies Executive Leadership Program. Her career has been dedicated to exploring the potential of art and museums as tools for communication, learning, personal expression and community building.

Gonzalez is the Chamber's third recipient of the Athena Young Professional Leadership Award. In her role with Palo Alto Housing, she oversees the affordable-housing nonprofit's strategic direction, including real-estate development and financing, property and asset management, resident services, staff management, administration of the below-market-rate programs for several cities, and general housing advocacy.

Though Palo Alto Housing initially focused on Palo Alto, Gonzalez expanded the organization's work to include other Silicon Valley cities. She currently serves as the chairwoman of the board of the Housing Trust Silicon Valley.

When she was growing up, Gonzalez and her family, who immigrated from the Philippines, benefited from affordable housing in the East Bay. Her commitment to the mission of Palo Alto Housing comes, in part, from her personal experience with the value of a stable, affordable environment, the Chamber announcement noted. Now the mother of three, she balances motherhood and her leadership responsibilities at Palo Alto Housing.

As part of the Athena Awards luncheon, a professional women's mixer will begin at 11 a.m. Lunch will follow at noon. Individual tickets and tables of 10 can be purchased from the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce at

The Palo Alto Weekly is the media sponsor of the Athena Awards.


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3 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Sep 9, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Congratulations to both women. I have worked with Karen at the art center and know her to be an extremely talented woman.

9 people like this
Posted by Reasonable Citizen
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 10, 2016 at 10:18 am

Fantastic choices as both are so deserving. Candice Gonzalez is the President of Palo Alto Housing, which manages 750 affordable apartments in Palo Alto. Just think, those 750 apartments house 750 families that otherwise would not be able to live in Palo Alto. This adds so much to the diversity and fabric of our community. The best thing is that those 750 affordable apartments will be here for eternity, because Palo Alto Housing is a non-profit committed to affordable housing, and not profit driven. I was talking to a police officer in Palo Alto recently, and he said he grew up in an affordable apartment owned by Palo Alto Housing. He said he would never have had the opportunities he had otherwise. He then said he came back here to be a police officer because he loved our town so much. Pretty cool story.

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I support the mission of Palo Alto Housing Corporation, but think Gonzalez showed extremely poor judgment during and in the wake of the Maybell situation. I did not think she was open or honorable, and her choices led us down an expensive road of conflict. I think the board should have found someone with more connection with rather than antagonism for the community. Sorry, but I do not support honoring any of that. I do wish her well as a person [portion removed].

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