Tim Zinn on a mission to change image of Timken Art Museum
By Kathy Day
Listen to Tim Zinn, the newly named chairman of the board of the Timken Museum of Art, and you’re likely to become a believer in his goal of making it the “center of art, energy and fun in Balboa Park.”
Now a fulltime Rancho Santa Fe resident – who previously split time between Santa Barbara and Chicago where his hospital information system consulting organization was based – he’s out to make sure the Timken is no longer “the best kept secret” in the park, he said.
He’s convinced that with the help of new board members, special events, and an emphasis on technology, plus “crackerjack” executive director John Wilson at the helm, the museum will gain new visibility and renown.
Zinn, who sees technology at the forefront of the Timken’s future, brings a broad base of experience to his chairmanship – and a commitment to make a difference in Balboa Park, which he calls the “heart and soul of San Diego.”
Opened in 1965, the museum is the permanent home of the Putnam Foundation Collection known especially for its European Old Masters paintings. Now, Wilson and the board are in search of a new painting to expand the collection, Zinn said.
More imminent is the “Soiree Festive et Visionnement Prive” on Friday, March 23, that he and his wife of 44 years, Ellen, are co-hosting. It salutes the “Object Lesson: France in the Golden Age,” showing at the museum.
A native of Oklahoma who is a Harvard MBA, he holds masters’ degrees in computer science and systems engineering. The family – including daughter Jacqueline who is a pain management physician — lived for 27 years in Chicago where he founded and put his talents to work at Zinn Enterprises, Ltd., and established himself as a nationally known health-care futurist.
When they moved to San Diego 11 years ago, he said, he and Ellen were determined to get involved in Balboa Park. His first foray there was on the board of the San Diego Historical Society and today he’s also on the board and executive committee of the UCSD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center. Ellen became involved with the San Diego Natural History Museum, which is now know as the “NAT,” and is a past president of Patrons of the Prado.
But it was his role on the board of The Old Globe that really fired up his involvement in all things Balboa Park. He acknowledges not knowing much about theater when Lou Spisto asked him to join the board — or about art when asked to join the Timken board.
“He said, ‘You have a track record in business turnarounds and running businesses, so you could chair our finance committee,’ ” Zinn recalled.
When asked if he has expanded his knowledge of art since joining the board, he responded enthusiastically: “Absolutely.”
His own preferences in art tend toward Caravaggio – “one of my all time favorites” – and Canaletto.
“What he finds most interesting about art is the “back story — where has it been, who framed it, why did the artist paint that subject at that time. … It makes the art come alive.”
Soon, the Timken will become the first private museum to put its entire collection on an “app” that will enable visitors to take a photo of a painting that will link to an audio history and description of the work. Some other museums have similar offerings, but with this one “you won’t have to dial in the number. You just take a photo that shows where you are in the museum.”
Other ideas for expanding the reach of the Timken include hosting more events like Friday’s soiree, or Mainly Mozart concerts and educational programs – more “stuff,” Zinn said, “to bring staid art to life.”
When Zinn is looking for a little relaxation, he may be found on the golf course. He’s on the board of the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club and is a member of the La Jolla Country Club. He might also be sailing, scuba diving, playing tennis or practicing his Western riding skills – or traveling.
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