About a year ago, Jo Tartt Jr. decided to turn the Victorian town house he had been busily renovating in the heart of the Dupont Circle neighborhood into an art gallery.

Tartt's creation, the Tartt Gallery, at 2017 Q St. NW, between the Phillips Collection and the Dupont Circle Metro stop's Q Street entrance, will open Feb. 14 with a show of photographs by Albuquerque photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. For Tartt, who describes himself as a "collector and avid practitioner of photography" and who was once rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Georgetown, the new gallery is a fantasy finally realized. As Tartt tells it, he just "let my hobby get out of control." And the result is a new gallery -- in an area chock full of them -- that will show photography, painting and sculpture.

Tartt says he spent 10 happy years at the helm of Grace Episcopal before leaving in 1981. He has spent the last five years concentrating on dealing in 19th- and 20th-century fine arts photography, "with forays into the decorative arts and American arts and crafts objects," he said. The tireless Tartt also owns a small publishing firm in New York City -- QED Editions -- that publishes limited-edition photographic portfolios. Work by Andre Kertesz, Lee Friedlander and Aaron Siskind are among those recently published by QED.

"Every third show will be photography," said Tartt; the others will be a mixture of painting and sculpture. Five local artists will be represented at the gallery: painters Lee Hainer, Reginald Pollock and Robin Johnson Ross; sculptor Genna Watson; and photographer Terry Braunstein.

The focus of Tartt's first show, Witkin, will be in town for the gallery opening and will speak the previous night, Feb. 13, at 7 in the Frances and Armand Hammer auditorium at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, as part of the Corcoran's "Art Talk" series. It is free and open to the public.

The Tartt Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the gallery opening, call 332-5652. The Circle of Galleries

Dupont Circle Art Galleries, one of the more cooperative groups of galleries around, has organized an open house, which takes place Saturday. The last time these galleries got together for something communal, it resulted in "New Talent," a 13-gallery summertime show of the newest and the brightest. This time, there is no theme -- just an assault on winter ennui -- and another addition to the group. The galleries will be joined by the year-old Washington Printmakers' Gallery. The aforementioned Tartt Gallery also has joined the group, but it won't be open in time for the open house.

"We just want people to realize that there is such a high concentration of galleries in this area," said Kathleen Ewing, owner of the Kathleen Ewing Gallery and a prime mover behind the open house. Gallery maps can be obtained at downtown hotels, the Phillips Collection and the participating galleries. For more information, call 328-0955. Women and the Arts

The nation's capital does not lack opportunities for educating oneself through lecture series and seminars. In this spirit, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is sponsoring a free lecture series, "Women in the Arts," over the next few months. On Feb. 12 Danielle Rice, curator of education at the National Gallery of Art, will speak on "The Rivalry Between Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-LeBrun and Adelaide Labille-Guiard" at 7:30 p.m. in Mount Vernon College's Hand Chapel, 2100 Foxhall Rd. NW. Call 337-2615 for information on additional lectures. END NOTES

The Washington Opera Guild gave its Artist of the Year award last month to soprano Hei-Kyung Hong. Hong made her 1985 debut in the Washington Opera's production of "Eugene Onegin" . . . The fledgling National Building Museum has selected Robert J. McKean Jr., a retired New York City attorney, as its new president. Richard O. Haase, current president, will become chairman of the board of trustees. McKean will serve chiefly as a fundraiser . . . The application deadline for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities' 1987 grants-in-aid is March 7; the commission is offering a series of February workshops designed to familiarize people with its grants program. Call 724-5613 . . . The Alexandria Commission on the Arts has begun publication of a monthly newsletter; the free newsletter contains information about arts and grants. To receive a copy, write the commission, 1108 Jefferson St., Alexandria, 22314 . . . The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is sponsoring a free symposium in conjunction with its "Directions, 1986" exhibition, opening Thursday: "An Evening With Peter Fleps and Hope Sandrow." Fleps, a Washington painter, will be featured in "Directions"; Sandrow is a New York photographer. The symposium is at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Hirshhorn auditorium. Call 257-3700.