The Mayor's Art Awards, an annual program sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and previously scheduled to take place Sept. 24, has been canceled because of city budget cuts. The nomination process and presentation ceremony for the awards, started by Mayor Marion Barry in 1981, cost approximately $30,000 each year, according to Pamela Holt, deputy director of the commission. Awards in the past were given to individual artists, art organizations and patrons for artistic excellence and contributions to the Washington cultural community. Recipients have included Sweet Honey in the Rock, Sam Gilliam, Zelda Fichandler, the Washington Project for the Arts, Lois Mailou Jones and Experience Unlimited.

"I'm extremely disappointed because I think that the ceremony is one of the major things that this agency does," said Holt. "And I think it's something that has a positive atmosphere and promotes a nice spirit among area artists, not just the winners."

Holt said the commission would have liked to go on with the awards even after the budget cuts were announced, but "the reduction was so severe that the ceremony wouldn't be able to be done in a fashion that we're accustomed to." Barry's decision not to run for mayor also was a factor in the commission's decision since the awards "were an event that Mayor Barry initiated," she said. "He always hosted the awards, and with him no longer serving as the mayor, we don't know what would happen."

The commission's budget rose from $100,000 to $3.2 million during Barry's tenure, according to Holt.

Also affected by the budget cuts, which were announced to the commission at the end of June, will be the grant programs. "Before, the agency had nine funding programs," said Holt. "And art organizations and individuals could apply for funds throughout the year. What we have done is restructured those programs and combined them into three."

The commission will be holding a public forum Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the District Building to discuss the effects of the cuts on the cultural community and explain the new funding programs and procedures.

"The forum will give us an idea of how the artists feel about {the budget cuts}," said Holt. "We're trying to get a feel for that. But at the same time we'll be trying to figure out how much more of an impact we can make with even with less money."

Design Competition for Memorial

The Vietnam Women's Memorial Project last week announced an open design competition for the Vietnam Women's Memorial to be placed in an area south of the existing Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall.

President Reagan signed a bill authorizing construction of the memorial in November 1988. President Bush gave authorization to have it built in Constitutional Gardens last fall, and the Commission of Fine Arts approved that site in April.

"The idea of a national open competition allows for greater creativity, and it will be a present to all of us because we don't know what to expect," said Diana Hellinger, executive director of the project, citing the discovery of Maya Lin, the architectural student who designed the controversial Vietnam Veterans Memorial after an open competition in 1981.

The deadline for registration is Oct. 29. The winner, who will be announced on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, will receive a $20,000 cash prize. The second prize will be $10,000, and there may be up to five honorable mentions of $1,000 each.

The selection will be made by a jury of five artists and architects and four Vietnam War veterans.

Registration kits, which detail the competition rules and outline the design standards, are available by mailing a $50 check (payable to the VWMP) to: Michael John Pittas, HAIA, AICP, Competition Adviser, VWMP Inc., 2001 S St. NW, Suite 302, Washington, D.C. 20009.

Exporting Ballet

The Soviet Union has put out the welcome mat for the Washington Ballet, which will be traveling to the U.S.S.R. this fall at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture. The company will leave Washington Oct. 26 and perform the last three days of the month in Moscow, and then present two more performances in Leningrad Nov. 3 and 4.

For fans interested in seeing the ballet perform abroad, the company has organized a tour package to the Soviet Union, which includes air fare, hotels, meals, tours and ballet tickets. For information, call 362-3606.