It would make a good plot for a ballet. A boy and girl meet and fall in love in a small town. From there, they head for the big city and become famous. They move all over the country, then finally come home to where they started. Still together.

It might be a little mushy, but it's true. James Canfield and Patricia Miller will be returning to the Washington Ballet in late August. Canfield has been appointed assistant artistic director and will also be choreographing and dancing. His longtime partner Miller will become a member of the company. The duo trained at the Academy of the Washington Ballet in the '70s and performed in the company after graduation. From here they went on to successful careers with New York City's Joffrey Ballet and then with the Pacific Ballet Theatre in Seattle, where Canfield was named artistic director in 1986.

"We're very excited," said Elvi Moore, executive director of the Washington Ballet. "They have always wanted to come back here someday, when the time was right." This sentiment was underlined by Artistic Director Mary Day, who added, "It is particularly gratifying to have these dancers, at the height of their careers, return to Washington."

Moore did emphasize that Associate Artistic Director Choo-San Goh will continue to do the bulk of the choreography. But Canfield, who created "The Third Stage" and "Equinoxe" (which was performed here last month when the pair were guests of the ballet), will also be contributing pieces.

Canfield and Miller are on their way across the country right now, and will be heading for South Carolina, where they have summer commitments. They'll start work here Aug. 31. The season opens in mid-October. Call 362-3606 for information.

State of the Art An extraordinary special issue of the National Endowment for the Arts' "Artsreview" came out this quarter. In the thick magazine, Editor Dodie Kazanjian takes up the theme "Portrait of the Artist, 1987," with 57 first-person interviews with leaders in the visual arts in the United States. These commentators include artists (Alex Katz, Chuck Close), critics (Clement Greenberg, Michael Brenson), collectors (Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, Douglas Cramer), dealers (Leo Castelli, Mary Boone) and curators (Ned Rifkin, Linda Shearer). All are integral players.

The portrait here is a fleeting snapshot to be sure -- the field changes by the second -- but it offers some enduring glimpses of this world. Trends emerge: overhype in the media; the 500-pound gorilla influence of New York City on the scene; the emergence of other art centers, such as Los Angeles and Chicago; the difficulties for new artists to be shown; and the importance of alternative spaces.

Kazanjian is happy with her issue, saying, "It mushroomed into something we didn't quite expect." She thinks the magazine touches on all the conflicting ideas about visual arts today. Many of the interviews are from New York, but the editor insists that the issue "fills out a national picture -- New York is the center, but things are going on all over."

Kazanjian wants to do another theme issue soon and hopes to focus next on the future of artistic media. Copies of the issue can be obtained for $3.50 from "Artsreview" at the NEA, Washington, D.C. 20506. Make checks payable to the Superintendent of Documents.

Artists and their art will, of course, also be the focus of the 1987 Artists Congress at the Corcoran Gallery of Art this weekend. Topics of discussion include the politics of being an artist, esthetic issues, studio and exhibition space for artists and safety. Art will also be on display. Call 232-8344 for info.

Outdoors With the coming of summer weather, most here head for the air-conditioned indoors to take in music on the stereo. But it behooves the sweating Washingtonian to ignore the humidity and begin taking advantage of the city's best summertime tradition: the outdoor concert. So what if there are crunchy cicadas everywhere? Whether it's on the white esplanade of the Jefferson Memorial or with the Capitol as a backdrop, sitting back as the sun goes down and the evening thunderstorms gather and listening to jazz, classics and pop separates real Washingtonians from the four-year interlopers.

The U.S. Navy Band opens its weekly summer series today on the Capitol's west terrace and also performs on Thursday at the Washington Monument's Sylvan Theater. All concerts are free and begin at 8 p.m. Call the Dial-the-Navy-Band recording at 433-2525.

This Week The work of Russian artist Anatoly Krynsky will be on display in the Dirksen Senate Office Building (Room 106) today and tomorrow only. The exhibit, sponsored by the International Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in the Soviet Union, was supposed to be up all week in the Russell Building rotunda next door, but with the crush of people from the Iran hearings this week, it was feared that some of the artwork might be damaged.

On Saturday, the National Museum of American History concludes its "American Sampler" series with a day of programs beginning at noon. There will be fiddlers, songs, square dances and films, as well as demonstrations of lacrosse stick making (you never know when you're going to need to know that) and 18th-century crafts. Call 357-2700 for further info.

This Saturday is the fourth annual Dupont-Kalorama Museum Walk, a daylong event for Washington art lovers. Seven museums -- the Phillips Collection, Textile Museum, Woodrow Wilson House, Anderson House, Columbia Historical Society, Barney Studio House and Fondo del Sol Visual Arts and Media Center -- open their doors with special presentations for an "off the Mall" experience. There will be music, films, lectures and even sheep-shearing (at the Textile Museum). For more info, call 387-2151.

This Sunday night, flutist Robert Dick will play at the Renwick. He was scheduled to play in January, but his performance was canceled because of the killer snowstorm.

This is the last week to collect art for a worthy cause. More than 25 area galleries have united to help battle AIDS with an exhibit and sale of artwork through June 6. All proceeds go to the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Many of the galleries will have special hours tomorrow night. Call the Wallace Wentworth Gallery at 387-7152 for information about participating galleries.