The first formal artistic exchange agreement between the United States and France was signed Friday at the new, barely completed French Embassy on Reservoir Road. Before a small crowd of onlookers and CSPAN's glaring lights, Frank Hodsoll, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Charles Z. Wick, director of the United States Information Agency, and Bernard Boyer, charge d'affaires for the French Embassy, signed an agreement providing up to 10 NEA fellowships to American artists and the same number to French artists from France's Ministries of External Relations and Culture. The American fellowships, which will be awarded in eight arts categories, will supply one-year stipends of up to $25,000 to cover expenses in France.

"We must assist the voices of the present, who may well become the voices of the future," said Hodsoll in remarks following the signing.

There have been cultural exchanges between the two countries before this, explained Kathleen Bannon, an NEA program officer, but this marks the first "guaranteed agreement" on an artists' exchange. The NEA will be reviewing applicants through September 1985, when final decisions are expected. More information can be obtained from the International Program, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C. 20506.