Some innovative methods, a bit of creativity - and just a little money - can go far to alleviate some inner city woes witnesses told a House subcommittee yesterday.

The program that the witnesses praised before the Subcommittee on the City of the House Committee on Banking. Finance and Urban Affairs, was the small grants program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

In Pittsburgh, the NEA grants helped to make improvement planning for six public squares possible; in Boston, it provided funds for linking Roxbury's black community to its roots; in Milwaukee, Endowment money helped preserve and revitalize the city's last, relatively intact, 19th-century, workingman's neighborhood.

Through the Architecture and Environmental Arts Program, grants are given directly to local groups to preserve and enrich the structural environment. The program provides no capital funds and does not oversee any operational projects. The grants rarely exceed $50,000 and are given out on a 50-50 matching grant basis.

"The matching requirements insure strong local commitment," said Endowment chairman Nancy Hanks. "We believe that this local commitment is largely responsible for the success of this program."

Witness Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, also gave high marks to the program's grants because application for them was "clear, complete, and concise. In fact, (the grant applications) are one page."

Rep. Henry S. Reuss (D-Wis.), chairman of the full committee, said the purpose of the two-day hearings on "Livable Cities: How Small Grants Programs Can Make a Difference" was to hear from the Endowment and other witnesses on the subject.