When the last shopper left the store, the fun began Saturday night at the Tysons Corner Bloomingdale's. A 17-piece dance band started playing in front of the ladies' shoes department on the second floor. Downstairs, people leaned against cosmetics counters as they chatted and nursed their drinks. A juggler and a mime weaved through the hosiery, coats and lingerie while a brass ensemble and two Renaissance music groups entertained in other parts of the store.

The occasion -- the Venetian Carnival, a fundraiser for about 350 people to benefit the Cultural Alliance and the eight major arts service agencies of metropolitan Washington. Recently, the Cultural Alliance and these arts agencies formed the Regional Art Directors' Roundtable to better coordinate the needs of arts groups not only in the District but in suburban areas as well.

"This is our debut," said Leila Smith, executive director of the Cultural Alliance, about the roundtable. "We wanted to bring together arts organizations throughout the region to look at common problems of funding and promoting the arts. We're sort of spokesmen on behalf of the arts industry," she said.

"This is the first time you're seeing nine area organizations with like needs work together to exchange ideas on what works for them," said Bloomingdale's public relations director Ann Stock, who helped coordinate the gala. Stock pointed out that while many of the guests frequently attend arts parties, this one had many new faces, many from small, suburban arts groups.

While people delighted in the tasty finger food and enjoyed the entertainment, they also passed out business cards and talked about their new projects. In one corner, the D.C. Slide Registry flashed slides of local artists' work on a screen. Members of a Renaissance choral group, Musica Concordia, performing at the gala, talked with members of Twelfth Night, a Renaissance musical ensemble, about the kinds of music they play. "They do what we do. It was enlightening," said Dolores Lawrence of Musica Concordia.

"I learned about the D.C. Arts Commission when I overheard the wife of its director talking," said artist Vonja. "I made one or two contacts. There needs to be more reaching out." She also thought too few artists were present. "It's hard for an artist to pay $30 to go to a reception. It's a hard life," she said.

Painter Richard Dempsey, perched in one of the high chairs next to a makeup counter, sat observing the party around him. He said that if he were to paint a picture of this evening, he would "do it abstract, showing a lot of activity and the glitter. And it would be sort of impressionistic. No one would be recognizable."

He said a dark border representing the dark, rainy night would surround the abstract center. "It would show beautiful things coming out of the darkness. I have had a nice time at this party, so it would be a happy picture."