Rancho Santa Fe resident 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 full-time 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, such as his Rancho Santa Fe neighbors Demi and Frank Rogozienski, special events like this weekend’s “salon” dinner, an emphasis on technology, and “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 Friday’s “Soiree Festive et Visionnement Prive,” saluting the “Object Lesson: France in the Golden Age” showing at the museum that Zinn and his wife of 44 years, Ellen, are co-hosting.

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 healthcare 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.

“He said, ‘You have a track record in business turnarounds and running businesses, so you could chair our finance committee,’ ” Zinn recalled, adding that role lasted seven years. When his term expired, he had a similar reaction when RSF resident Patty Queen and Jane Bowen Kirkeby, who is still a board member, asked him to join the Timken board.

Again he heard, “You have energy and we need people who know how to run a business.”

When asked if he has expanded his knowledge of art since joining the board, he responded enthusiastically: “Absolutely.”

Noting that he’s learned a lot on his own, he added, “You can never supplant the expertise of our staff.”

His own preferences in art tend toward Caravaggio – “one of my all time favorites” – and Canaletto.

“Ellen and I have traveled almost everywhere, except India, and we keep coming back to Italy,” Zinn said, adding that they have an extensive collection of Venetian art glass.

“Their works speak to me of the places I’ve been.”

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.”

He’s been involved with the Timken’s acquisitions committee, which has exposed him to a great learning curve under Wilson’s tutelage.

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.

For more information visit; Facebook at Timken Museum of Art or Twitter at @TimkenArtMuseum or call (619) 239-5548.

A special event

An evening of “great food, great wines, good conversation and fine jewelry and music” will revolve around a private showing of five French masterpieces at the Timken Museum of Art on Friday, March 23.

Ellen and Tim Zinn are co-hosts for “Soiree Festive et Visionnement Prive,” saluting the “Object Lesson: France in the Golden Age.”

Nicholas Poussin’s “Return of the Holy Family to Nazareth” on loan from the Cleveland Museum of Art is the centerpiece of the exhibit, which also features the Timken’s 17th century works by Claude Lorrain and Philippe de Champagne. Simon Vouet’s “Aeneas Fleeing Troy”from the San Diego Museum of Art and “Holy Family in a Landscape” by Pierre or Nicholas Mignard, from a private collection, complete the French emphasis.

Chef Jeffrey Strauss from Pampelmousse Grille has planned a French-themed menu that will be complemented by pairings of French wines selected by the Zinns.

Following dinner, there will be what Zinn called a “soiree,” with remarks by Colin B. Bailey, deputy director and chief curator of The Frick Collection, New York. The Timken, he added, “was modeled after a lot of the Frick” – and the Timken was used as a model for the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth.

Bailey will be joined by Dr. John Marciari of the San Diego Museum of Art and Dr. Victorio Sancho Lobis of the Hoehn Family Gallery and the University of San Diego.

A special accompaniment to the evening will be the music by an electric violinist, who was featured in transitions from the televised Academy Awards ceremony to the commercials.

About 70 guests are expected for the event, which will benefit the museum’s educational programs.