If you ever doubt that art is important, can make a difference, check out the process that the Arizona Commission on the Arts goes through.

The state-wide agency swooped into town Monday to present the Arizona Art Tank — or rather, to sponsor it. Ten So AZ arts groups had six minutes each to propose a project. A panel of judges — which included State Representative Steve Farley, who was instrumental in securing $1 million in arts funding for this fiscal year, and State Rep Ethan Orr, who crossed the aisle to push for the funds with Farley — selected the top grant winners.

An audience of maybe 200 sat around the El Casino ballroom listening to artists pulsing with passion for their projects. It was just downright thrilling.

The Tucson Museum of Art won the top grant — $10,000, for a project that will, in essence, periodically turn the museum over to young artists. Called Start, the museum will host new, emerging, young, old, exciting artists to perform, paint, exhibit at the museum and on the museum grounds. It's a pretty innovative program. Write start@tucsonmuseumofart.org for more info.

Other grant winners were Opening Minds through the Arts ($7,500), with plans to develop teaching videos; Gold Canyon Arts Council, which is planning a project that will bring the stories of the elders of the community to school children ($6,000); Solar Sculptures & Dinnerware ArtSpace ($5,000), which has a pretty nifty plan to project art onto downtown buildings; and BlackBox Foundation out of Casa Grande ($4,000), which will use the grant money to train teachers so that art can become part of the curriculum. The BlackBox is an all-volunteer program and its simple proposal to bring arts education to the mostly-poverly level students was delivered with such fierce commitment. It really spoke to me.

Moises Orozco and Phoebe Jenkins won the $500 grant - the audience award - for their proposed eco-friendly mode of transportation, the Phoebe Bird.

Every one of the proposals held promise, and some just knocked me out. But more than anything it was the passion, from the individual artists to the big organizations, that was so magical.