Will the National Medal of Arts be handed out this year? "It is definitely going to happen," says National Endowment for the Arts spokeswoman Katherine Christie. No one seems to know when, though.

And, of course, no one is saying who will get this year's awards. Last year, when the medal was given for the first time, 12 medalists collected their awards at a White House dinner in April. The National Council of the Arts, chaired by NEA Chairman Frank Hodsoll, chose the honorees, the late artist Georgia O'Keeffe and philanthropist Paul Mellon among them.

A clue to medalists this year might be the list of previous Kennedy Center Honors winners: choreographer Martha Graham and diva Leontyne Price, once Kennedy Center honorees, were also among last year's medalists.

One guess is that the awards will be handed out closer to something called "National Arts Week," intended to bestir the collective arts consciousness Nov. 16-22.

Last year, on the occasion of the NEA's 20th anniversary, President Reagan declared a week in September "National Arts Week." It was supposed to be a one-time celebration, with towns, colleges and institutions big and small offering hundreds of cultural programs during the observance. Hoping to keep the momentum generated from that first celebration going, the NEA has formulated plans for this second arts week. It is backed by a goodly amount of corporate support and an interesting lineup on its artists' committee, including Clint Eastwood, Yo-Yo Ma, Rudolf Serkin and Jamie Wyeth. No events have been scheduled yet.

"It will give communities a chance to focus attention on the art in their communities," says Marvin Leibman, the NEA's director of special projects.

Hirshhorn Duplicates Auction

Eleven valuable duplicate sculptures from the Hirshhorn Museum collection are to be auctioned at Christie's next week in New York City. Henry Moore's "Seated Figure" is included in auction lot and is expected to fetch $550,000 to $750,000. The late Joseph Hirshhorn donated his collection of nearly 6,000 items of contemporary art to the Smithsonian in 1966. "Most people don't give up such an enormous group of things at once. That left him pretty much bare," says Hirshhorn Museum Director James Demetrion. It certainly did not curb Hirshhorn's appetite for art. He began collecting duplicate casts of some of his favorite bronzes that had been produced in very limited editions. Demetrion isn't sure how Hirshhorn came by the Moore piece. "One may have come up at auction or he may have written Henry Moore himself," says Demetrion.

Very Special Arts Festival

Probably no better example of the universality of artistic experience can be found than the Washington Very Special Arts Festival. This festival of the arts for disabled youth celebrates its fifth anniversary when it begins tomorrow. All of the events -- and there are an amazing number crammed into one day -- are free and open to the public. More than 2,000 kids are expected to participate. New Visions Dance Theatre, a troupe of blind and visually impaired dancers, will be among the performers.

The festival has grown since its inception, when only 200 children participated. This year's festival will take over much of the Kennedy Center, with two stages at either end of the Grand Foyer and events upstairs in the Theater Lab. For the first time, the festival also is a part of the Kennedy Center childrens' festival, the Imagination Celebration. That change has given the festival more exposure and put all of the Very Special Arts Festival events on the celebration's program schedule, according to festival consultant Scott Stoner. Workshops for arts educators will also be offered tomorrow. For information, call 939-5143.

Reservations for the Soviet Show

There are three ways to make reservations to see the fabulous art from the Soviet Union's Hermitage and Pushkin museums, opening Thursday at the National Gallery of Art. Reservations can be obtained at no charge at the Ticketron Pass Desk on the ground floor of the gallery's East Building; for a service charge in person at any Ticketron outlet; or for a service charge by mail through Ticketron's telephone service, 1-800-233-4050.

Smithsonian Speakers

The Smithsonian Resident Associates Program has more than its share of artists and writers coming to town. Wednesday, artist Robert Arneson speaks at the Hirshhorn Museum in conjunction with the retrospective of his work that opens there the same day. Also at the Smithsonian: Peter Benchley, Martha Grimes, local Pulitzer Prize-winner Larry McMurtry, Jean Auel, Martin Cruz Smith and Susan Shreve will speak about their writing between May 1 and June 12. For information, call 357-3030.

Wolf Trap Luncheon

The "Wolf Trap and the Arts" luncheon, 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Westin Hotel, will honor Wolf Trap "godmother" Catherine Filene Shouse in anticipation of her 90th birthday on June 9. Singer, and also painter, Tony Bennett will speak and show slides of his artwork.

For the Record

It was incorrectly reported last week that the Levine School of Music's benefit at the French Embassy was expected to raise $5,000. In a town where some larger institutions spend that much on toilet seats, $5,000 would hardly be enough money to fill the coffers of the Levine Scholarship Fund -- which is where the $25,000 expected revenue from that benefit will go.