The old Mostly Mozart Festival was replaced with a new, eclectic festival, Summer for the City, with more diverse offerings. To project a more welcoming image, the center hung a giant disco ball over its main plaza.
Some critics have suggested that Timms has abandoned Lincoln Center’s values and traditional role as a champion of classic art forms under siege today. Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker last year that the new vision seemed “fundamentally out of step with Lincoln Center and its public, both extant and potential.”
But Timms defended his approach. He pointed to Lincoln Center’s investment in Geffen Hall as a sign of its commitment to classical music, but added that the organization would need to appeal to a much broader, more diverse crowd to fulfill its mandate. The center now offers choose-what-you-pay tickets for some events.
“We are speaking directly to the culture,” he said, “which requires us to speak to some new people who historically haven’t been the most comfortable at Lincoln Center.”
Timms also worked to diversify Lincoln Center’s board and staff: Women make up about 60 percent of its executive and senior management teams, and people of color nearly 40 percent.
Timms’s departure will add to Lincoln Center’s challenges. Even though the center is in a relatively strong position — the endowment has risen to about $280 million, from $258 million in 2019 — it is still working to recover from the pandemic. Lincoln Center, which spent $23 million on its own programming in 2019, spent $14 million in the year that ended in June 2022, when Geffen Hall was still closed, and $21 million in the year that ended last June.