Over the summer, government officials at the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Information Agency hammered out an agreement to help performing arts companies, artists and traveling exhibitions increase their visibility -- frequently limited by meager funds -- at international arts festivals abroad.

While some American artists such as filmmakers have long participated at major foreign gatherings, like the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera, participation at less well known but equally important festivals has remained slim and often has lacked official support.

The NEA and USIA will attempt to drum up private money to supplement the $300,000 the two agencies have agreed to spend on their joint effort.

"This marks the first time the United States government has been able to expand its program for support of American artists abroad to such events as the London Dance Umbrella, the Adelaide Festival and the new Montreal International Festival of New Dance," a joint release proclaimed last month.

All of this isn't to say that American musicians, dancers and others have not thrilled audiences worldwide in past years. Tomorrow, the National Symphony Orchestra leaves Turin, Italy, for Montreaux, Switzerland, on a European tour that lasts through the month. The Washington Ballet entertained Chinese audiences from Peking to Canton with the creations of Choo San Goh, and Liz Lerman and the Dancers of the Third Age recently came back from a tour of Sweden, where they performed at the 1985 Scensommar International Dance Festival in Stockholm.

More and more visual artists, however, are getting their work seen abroad. A group of seven Washingtonians -- Allen Carter, Mark Clark, Steven Carroll Foster, Ellen MacDonald, Jody Mussoff, John Ryan and Joe Shannon -- is exhibiting at the Andover Arts Festival in Andover, England, beginning Sept. 6.

The exhibit is titled "Looking Back, Looking Here, Looking Out" and will showcase the Washington artists, who "observe, collect, sift and transform the grist of the capital's history . . . ,'' according to the project's organizer, the Washington Project for the Arts.