The reception proved, as Washington Mayor Marion Barry suggested, that "City Hall should be a place where you can celebrate, as well as complain." The celebration was loud and steamy and the complaints brief and pointed as Barry and his wife, Effi, inaugurated his suite of offices as a mini art gallery last night.

"This is what the Barry administration is all about, supporting the arts, putting action behind our words," said Effi Barry. In its supplemental budget request, the Barry administration has designated $243,000 for the arts, twice the money now received.

In the hall outside the mayor's fifth-floor office in the District Building, Sterling Brown, the distinguished poet and folklorist, held court in an overstuffed chair; Larry Neal, the poet and chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts, passed out the agency's new brochure; and Ambassador Andre Coulbary of Senegal explained the intricacies of his country's tapestries. The opening exhibit includes contemporary Senegalese hangings, installed by the Museum of African Art, and tapestries of the sun by Teixeira Nash, a local black artist.

At one point, Barry told the 200 people crammed into his press conference room, "Someone asked me why don't we buy some of these works. You would be mad if I spent money on art instead of health and housing." There were a few "right-ons" but Nash replied, "Let's not put the artist at the end of the paycheck. We need financial support to pay for studios, to buy paint and frames."