The National Endowment for the Arts yesterday announced awards of $15 million in challenge grants to 84 institutions across the country, four of them in Washington.

The four local organizations are the Washington Ballet ($100,000); the Washington Opera ($350,000); American University's public radio station, WAMU-FM ($90,000); and the American Institute of Architects Foundation ($300,000). Each will receive as much of the grant as it can match 3-to-1 with private funds. They have three years to match the grant.

Organized fund-raising is a necessity for challenge grant recipients. "We have a new board chairman [Aldus Chapin]," said the Washington Ballet's Alton Miller, "and we have a women's committee that hopes to raise $40,000 at a major spring benefit." The Ballet also has a corporate committee for fund-raising and younger supporters' group, the Washington Ballet Enthusiasts.

The Washington Opera's challenge grant will be part of an ambitious three-year campaign to raise $6.8 million to expand the company's seasonal offerings and increase its national stature. "We've focused on some foundations that we feel were not terribly receptive to so-called regional companies," said the Opera's managing director Gary Fifield. "But the sense we get now is that they're willing to look at us as an exception." The Opera has already received $370,000 in private foundation grants which will go toward matching the challenge grant.

WAMU-FM station manager Susan Harmon said that station wants to "improve the quality of programming and increase the local arts coverage as well as do more local affairs coverage and public news. We're trying to increase the funds from the local community."

The American Institute of Architects Foundation, which educates the public about architecture, has a three-year financial drive with a goal of $2.5 million. "We are in the midst of an endowment campaign," said Suzanne Martin, director of development, "to assure the future preservation of The Octagon, a historic house-museum, to continue the exhibition program, the archival program."