Now eight years old, Montreal's non-profit, artist-run gallery, Powerhouse, grew out of the same needs that brought forth the Washington Women's Arts Center six years ago -- the desire for mutual support and a place where emerging women artists of all ages and esthetic persuasions could show. Now the two orgainzations have decided to produce "The Powerhouse Exchange Show," a two-part event designed to offer both groups some real insight into what's happening in art across the border. It's about time.

The first of this pair of shows "Powerhouse at Washington Women's Arts Center," opened earlier this week at WWAC, 1821 Q St. NW, after Powerhouse director Nell Tenhaaf and five of her artists drove a van packed with 32 works of art down from Montreal. In June, 23 women from WWAC will make a similar trek north. The conclusions, in both cases are likely to be the same: prevailing ideas in art today are international. If there's a common denominator, it is in diversity and the desire for individual expression. Switch the two shows and very possibly no one would notice.

There is, for exapmle, the advanced work of Stella Sasseville, who laces grommeted canvas to a metal frame shaped like an open cube, covering the canvas with layers of pale, transparent color that recalls the columns of Ann Truitt. Very different, though equally compelling, is Elise Bernatchez' boxed tableau entitled "Family Reunion," which seems to deal with "measuring up" in a family context. Painter Susan Dubrofsky also deals powerfully with parents and the passage of time. Anita Shapiro's large, strongly patterned watercolor diptych, and Diane Quackenbush's exquisitely colored pencil drawing of asparagus are two more highlights in this highquality show. This welcome show will continue through May 9th.

Lila Snow has always made sculpture out of "found" objects (better known as trash) from her frequent travels, and for years they looked it. In her latest show at Gallery 10, 1519 Connecticut Ave, NW the trash-like apperance of the earlyworks has finally been subsumed into sculpture that is newly refined and sophisticated.

But Snow hasn't stopped her scavenging. She recently spent a sabbatical year in Japan, where paper, packaging and bits of printed matter are often work of art in themselves. It is from her Japanese pickings that she has fashioned this suite of small, wallhung assemlages entitled "Made in Japan." Most are contained within box-like formats made of discarded, molded Styrofoam -- the sort used to cradle expensive, breakable equipment -- transformed here into precious-looking objects by layers and layers of paint.

The results are sometimes witty, sometimes boring, often punning, and always admiring evocations of the Japanese estetic. One black-and-gold box enclosing three wrapped plastic containers sums up the show: it is a little altar in praise of Japanese packagaing, along with a muffled sob for what has been lost.

Oddly, the very best work in this show has little to do with Japan, though it clearly grew out of this series. "Black Shapes" is nothing more than an abstract arrangement of three pieces of painted black Stryofoam, but it is wholly the artist's invention, and stands alone without leaning on bits and pieces of memory. It suggests a new self-confidence and, potentially, even better thing to come. The show closes April 25.

Zenith Gallery, the warren of art and crafts studios located in a carriage house behind 1441 Rhode Island Ave. NW, is currently showing the work of three artists in its handsome gallery space. Foremost among them is Alan Pitts, a draftsman-painter, who has created a series of large, close-up drawings of young women, observed from an odd angle above and focused on the face and the big, soft-boiled eyeballs.

What lifts these linear, undetailed drawings out of the ordinary is the air of mystery they release, both through their titles and through the hands and doorways that seem to float in the othewise undefined background. Similarities between Pitts and the drawings of Jody Mussoff are remarkable. s

Pitts uses occasional washes of color to add to drama and focus to his drawings, and Ken Wyner does likewise in his photographs, which adds also deal chiefly with women, singly and in groups. Wyner prints his photographs on a textured paper and then adds tints to reinforce a mood. Sometimes, as in a winning portrait of a little girl and in a multiple image called "Plastic Love," the look of a pre-Raphaelite drawing on colored paper is achieved. Elsewhere, the mere addition of color adds little to uninteresting images.

Enrique Banales and Olga Hinojosa are also showing small objects that combine fossils with silver. The work is sometimes intriguing, but looks more like oversized jewelry than sculpture. All three shows continue through April 29.