Leadership / 10.13.22
Andrew Douglas Is Rooted in Ticketing, the Garden and Giving Back
Andrew Douglas grew up on an apple orchard farm in an area of southern Arizona that he describes as “the middle of nowhere.” Like most people living on a farm, he was surrounded by all sorts of animals, including horses, cattle, goats and chickens, but his parents also rescued five monkeys, including two capuchins, two squirrel monkeys and one woolly monkey. His closest neighbor was three miles away. Having done his share of chores as a kid, Andrew knew early on that this was probably not the life for him.
Andrew, right, with two of his five siblings and one of their capuchin monkeys.
“My parents told me, ‘You can go to college, or you can work hard on an orchard.’ I said, ‘College sounds much better than that. I have hauled enough branches and done enough hard work as a kid that I will take a break with college.’ I went to school for engineering and computer science and went back to school to finish a master’s.”
While planning to pursue a career more closely related to his fields of study, Andrew picked up some part-time work in ticketing. “It stuck with me for 17 years,” he chuckles. “Everybody asks me, ‘Well, is it because you love theatre or because you love concerts?’ I say, ‘I grew up out in the middle of nowhere, in the country, and even though I did not really have the experience of arts and concerts a lot as a kid in middle school and high school, the one story I tell is that the homestead I grew up on is the exact location that the movie Oklahoma was filmed on.’”
For those who do not know the backstory, the movie is set in 1906. But, when the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was filmed in 1955, Oklahoma was so heavily developed that the director could not find a suitable rural location in that state. He did find what he was looking for in and around Sonoita, Arizona.
“There is a cottonwood tree in the movie that was in my backyard when I was a kid,” Andrew says. “And the peach trees in the movie are still down there in that area.”
Andrew’s parents still live on the old 180-acre homestead, about half of it filled with fruit trees. “My dad and mom built their own house and started planting apple trees and pear trees to cut down on the wind, [which is plentiful] in southern Arizona. It is beautiful grasslands down there and the area is La Cienega, a very full lowland [with] beautiful green grass hills. It just looks beautiful in the summer. We grew up on that farm. I planted maybe 40% of the trees that were down there as a kid, and they raised us to be hard workers.”
Trees in the Douglas family orchard.
It is no wonder then that when asked who he admires most, Andrew put his parents at the top of the list.
“We were raised by compassionate and loving parents,” he says. “My dad is an epistemologist, and my mom always said she wanted to work for NASA but had five kids instead. I definitely admire them.”
Today, Andrew lives in Tempe, across the street from Arizona State University (“Go Sun Devils!” he cheers proudly). He works in Mesa, Arizona, about a three-hour drive away from the old homestead. He worked in the box office at the Mesa Arts Center when it opened in 2005. Four years later, he was promoted to Box Office Manager and then to his current position as Director of Ticketing and Technology.
Ticketing Managers at the Mesa Art Center dress up together in a themed costume as part of an annual Halloween tradition. Andrew, on the left, is Ms. Pac-Man.
“I think my greatest achievement [to date] has been expanding ticketing [beyond] the shows at the Mesa Art Center to ticketing admission for all of our classes,” Andrew says. “We have 14 state-of-the-art art studio classrooms where we offer upwards of 1,000 classes a year. These are very specialized, high-level beginner to advanced classes in ceramics, glassblowing, painting, drawing, dance, music, metal work like blacksmithing and jewelry making and lapidary stonework, and all that stuff.”
He says, “Then I expanded even further into doing ticketing for the museums in downtown Mesa, which are the Arizona Museum of Natural History and the i.d.e.a. Museum, which is a children's museum in downtown Mesa, as well as the Mesa Amphitheater, which is a 5,000-seat outdoor venue. That was all on top of doing ticketing for the four theaters here at Mesa Arts Center, which have around 500 ticketed performances a year. [What I love about my job and the industry in general] is the chaos and how everything is so different every day. And I love the people I work with.”
When it comes to his colleagues, Andrew adds that he most appreciates their openness and trust, along with their willingness to be there when you need them. In turn, as a leader, he believes he has a responsibility to care about the development of others, not just those he works with but all those around him.
“Many of us forget that just a short amount of time into our career, we become the leaders, we become the mentors for others,” he says. “I think if you can pause and realize how you are significant and how your role can be significant to others at any stage of your career, that is a wonderful quality in a leader. Understanding that you can affect others, that you can be a critical thinker, and that you can be a mentor is a wonderful quality.”
Mesa Urban Garden Board Members and volunteers receiving the Extraordinary Properties Award from the City of Mesa.
When it comes to helping others, Andrew does more than just talk the talk.
“I think the greatest thing that makes me happy is helping others,” he says proudly.
“I have a lot of passion to help others and I built up organizations and nonprofits to help others. I volunteer a lot in food banks and community centers. I'm [also] one of the founding members and creators and a board member for the Mesa Urban Garden. We turned a vacant, dirt, concrete lot into a community garden in the center of Mesa. We put [in] irrigation lines, we built raised beds, we built the website, did the marketing, turned it into a beautiful performance space for community members to have bands, yoga and arts festivals.”
Before and after photos of the Mesa Urban Garden.
Andrew says, “We partnered with the City of Mesa and Mesa Arts Center to have some of the most significant public art murals in the city across the entire perimeter of the garden. We planted over 50 fruit trees and shade trees that allow native insects and birds and animals to have refuge. It has been such a wonderful addition to the city that originally, they were leasing the land to us for a small amount, and it just became such a staple for the city that they have permanently allowed us to lease it for a much longer period of time. It is a significant [personal] achievement. This is what I am most passionate about. My greatest love is helping.”
Having heard about his work with the community garden, what Andrew then told us about his most treasured possessions came as no surprise.
“It might sound odd, but some of my most treasured possessions are actually plants,” he says. “I am big on gardening. I am really big on being outdoors and the environment. I have the benefit of living in Tempe, Arizona, where we have flood irrigation, so I have this very tropical, lush, large tree in my backyard, and I can maintain this jungle. Before my grandmother passed, we would share plants back and forth. I have a very large collection of cacti and flowers that grow very well in Phoenix.”
Andrew passionately elaborates on his garden, “There is a flower called the narcissus, a tiny white daffodil-like flower. It is very floral, very pungent, but very beautiful. And it's just taken over a large section of my backyard. Every spring, these beautiful white flowers just blossom continuously for about a month and a half, and it is very lush and tropical. It reminds me of my grandmother and the plants and all the sharing we did with cactus and so on.”
In addition to his own garden, Andrew still finds time to help out at his family’s orchard and, during the pandemic, he turned some of the apples that grow there into delicious cider.
“I had all the equipment ready to go,” he says. “We had an old apple press that I used when I was in high school and as a kid. It was the summertime, and we had all these apples. I had a bunch of family in [my] social pod during the pandemic coming down there. So, I had my aunts and uncles down there grinding and pressing apples. I had my nieces and nephew cleaning apples, dumping apples in the grinder and the press. We made about 30 gallons of hard apple cider.”
“One of the things about hard apple cider is you let it ferment the first time, and then if you want to add sweetener and not have a crisp kind of dry cider, you add sugar or syrup of some form at the end of its first fermentation … We harvested probably 50 pounds of prickly pear fruit. Ripe, bright red, staining prickly pears. We cooked that down. We made it into syrup. We made it into sorbet and ice cream. And we made it into the sweetener for the hard apple cider, the post-flavoring of that. I made this very vibrant pink hard apple cider as one of the flavors of the 30 gallons. We are talking hundreds of bottles of beer. It was a very popular hit with the family and friends and as gifts.”
Andrew’s hometown of Elgin, AZ – where they filmed the 1955 film Oklahoma.
In addition to gardening, Andrew enjoys reading (his favorite author right now is Pierce Brown who has a seven-book series called “Red Rising”) and playing his guitar. He is also the coach, captain and pitcher for an adult kickball team called “Pitches Be Crazy,” carefully displaying his trademark sense of humor by stressing that is “Pitches with a ‘P,’ no profanity.” And, of course, he likes spending time with his friends, including those he met on a wintry night in Chicago while attending his first INTIX conference.
“I did not know much about INTIX at the time of attending that conference in 2008,” he says. “It was in Chicago, I am from Arizona and (laughing) I did not understand what the white stuff that falls out of the sky was, so I got stuck in a blizzard after watching a Bulls game. A bunch of people from the conference were also at the game and we all found refuge in a fast-food joint, and we just bonded. Since that first year, I still connect and I am still really good friends with all the people that found refuge [together that night] … That was a significant moment for me, bonding with people as a first timer at INTIX and being stuck in what I think was the worst blizzard they’d had in years at the time.”
Andrew has attended every INTIX conference since then and he never ceases to be inspired by those he meets.
“What inspires me is when other people are excited about something and when other people are inspired about what they are doing. That is the motivation that really builds. It is just like being in a concert when everybody is cheering. It brings your emotion and your happiness to the surface and gets you excited about doing it as well or exploring that aspect of it,” he says.
Andrew says, “[For me], the relationships are the biggest takeaway from INTIX. I think the biggest benefit for me is making connections, communicating with others, and having a sounding board to talk through your thoughts and understand the industry standards that are out there, and understand why people are doing certain things or how they are accomplishing different elements of their job … We learn from people who are brand new to the industry, who have come from other industries and bring their wealth of knowledge … We also get that where many people look for it, which is from above, from people who have the most years of experience.”
One great benefit that people who work in ticketing have is access to great venues and performances, often while on the job and, perhaps more rarely, as a patron or fan enjoying some time off. Andrew is no different in this regard.
“I would say the Mesa Art Center is my home choice, but definitely my favorite venue for events would be the Desert Botanical Garden, which is just down the street from where I live. They have a beautiful stage that backs up to a nice hill with all these very beautiful cactus and succulents. It is a wonderful venue to go outside, be among beautiful plants, and be one with nature.”
And, as for his favorite performance…
“I have seen a lot of huge artists and wonderful events and concerts, but for some reason, the one that stays in my head as the most significant was a performance by Florence and The Machine. This was probably over 10 years ago,” Andrew says. “It was before she got married and then divorced and had kids and life got a little complicated for her. She just had this presence. She has these huge lungs and is a beautiful singer. That performance, for some reason, just stays in my head. She is this beautiful performer and very vibrant person, and you just get lost in that moment.”
There was also a time when Andrew himself stepped up as an artist and, to this day, it holds a special place in his heart.
“I participated in an event that we have here at the Mesa Arts Center called Spark at Dark,” he says. “It partnered an art installation or performance with music, like a concert or hip-hop dance or a lighting installation. We partnered with local artists and local hackerspace artists as well to either create a visual installation or create a performance piece for each one of these monthly events. We had one month where we did not have anybody to fill in for the art installation. I said to myself, ‘Well, I can come up with something.’ I went to college for engineering. I'm very systems minded, and I said I can dabble in creating an interactive musical and visual installation.”
Andrew says, “I built a drum set art installation in which you tap different areas of an illuminated drum set and every area, every tuned pitch or rumble of those interactive light-up spheres would cause different lighting to go off sporadically in different patterns on an art installation above them. It had these little microcomputers; it had a sound resonator. It had inputs that recognize different places that you touch, and then every one of them would light up all these giant paper spheres that were hanging from this huge trellis area that we have on the Mesa Arts Center campus.”
Although Andrew concedes that when he got into ticketing, he had not had the exposure to live theatre and concerts that one might have expected, he says he has always been a big fan of the French impressionist artists, especially Monet. While he has been to Paris several times, Andrew has yet to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie where breathtaking lifestyle paintings of Monet’s Water Lilies are permanently on display. He is still hoping to get there.
“Every single time I have gone, there has either been a museum strike, it was not open when we were there at the time, or something else happened and I just never had a chance to visit,” he says. “That is the most specific thing I can think of that I would love to go see. I love Paris. I think it is beautiful. The history, the opulence. It's just unreal.”
Having grown up in southern Arizona where it is cooler than other areas of the state (it even gets some snow), Andrew also has his eyes on a tropical destination, and not necessarily just to visit. He says he would love to live in Hawaii or, for that matter, any tropical place by an ocean. Somehow, however, one cannot quite imagine this childhood ranch hand living anywhere other than in the area where he grew up.
“That might be my retirement plan,” he says. “If you ever find yourself in Sonoita-Elgin, Arizona, which is a very popular wine country similar to Napa Valley, maybe in 10, 15 years you will see me having a cidery down there.”
Andrew as a child on the family homestead.
That, plus a garden, sounds like it could be just the ticket one day after Andrew is ready to wrap up a long and successful career.
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