Friday's meeting of the National Endowment for the Arts' advisory board was the first since the Republican Congress moved in. So you might have expected it to be more than just business as usual. Indeed, after some prosaic discussion of film preservation programs, the members of the National Council on the Arts passed a resolution in support of the endowment, threatened with extinction by some members of Congress. "For almost 30 years the Endowment has symbolized an awakening sense of the centrality of the arts in the history of our people's spirit and future," the document reads in part. While praising the federal government for "wisely devoting limited funds to the promotion of artistic excellence," the resolution notes that these amounts are "minimal in comparison to the investments made by other Western nations . . . ." The final paragraph reads: "We, the National Council on the Arts, in endorsing the leadership of Chairman {Jane} Alexander and the generosity of the American people, strongly urge the Congress to maintain its commitment to funding this resonating voice in the song that is America." Three cowboy poets addressed the quarterly council meeting, adding their resonating voices to those praising the endowment. Buck Ramsey, Art Cavanaugh and Hal Cannon spoke and also spent part of the day on Capitol Hill, where they met with Rep. Barbara Vucanovich (R-Nev.), Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah). "I think we got a receptive ear, at least," says Cannon, artistic director of the Western Folklife Center in El\ko, Nev. "A lot of the people we deal with in western states are among the most conservative constituents in America. But once you explain what it takes to keep these traditions going -- traditions people take for granted -- you find people support what we're trying to do. In a world that seems bent on ripping everything apart, the traditional arts are the glue helping keep societies together." In a letter Cannon took with him to the Hill, he and the other directors of the Folklife Center state flatly: "The Cowboy Poetry Gathering would not have happened" without federal funds, and NEA support has been critical for such initiatives as the Native American Cowboy research project and the Voices of the West program. Cannon remembers trying to start the first cowboy poetry gathering in Elko 11 years ago, before Roy Rogers' fast-food commercials brought the subject to a broad audience. "I wasn't looking for government support at first," he says. "I went to over 150 companies looking for funding. I was turned down flat. The Folk Arts program of the NEA was the only place anyone listened to me, and even they took some convincing. I'd say 90 percent of the start-up money came from the endowment, and now, we get only 3 or 4 percent from the NEA and the rest is private. "What I'm saying is that it was a national effort to help preserve regional art, and that is what government funding is about -- taking the first step when others won't, when culture is at stake, culture that would otherwise be lost." Tours for The Frame' Two lectures listed in last week's column in conjunction with "The Frame in America" exhibit at the Federal Reserve Board are not, in fact, open to the public. The show's curator, William Adair, will conduct at least two more tours, by reservation. For details, call his Gold Leaf Studio at 202-638-4660. Art Bits

Georgetown University's School for Summer and Continuing Education is presenting a lineup of lectures titled "Creative Washington: A Current Jam." The eight-week series begins Friday and features such Washington-based artists as dancer Ajax Joe Drayton, painter Sheila Crider, writer Richard McCann and composer Janet Peachey. Call 202-687-5942 for more information . . .

Washington dancer Liz Lerman has been named the recipient of the first Pola Nirenska award for major contributions to dance. Established in memory of Nirenska by her husband, Jan Karski, the $5,000 award is administered by the Washington Performing Arts Society . . .

Sudanese artist Mohammad Omer Khalil will give a free lecture on his art Saturday at 3 p.m. in conjunction with the exhibit of his work at the National Museum of African Art. Call 202-357-4600 for details . . .

The District of Columbia Arts Center will hold an artists' panel discussion titled "Ideas and Objects: A Post-Conceptual Romance Revisited" Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The agenda promises to include such topics as "What Is Art?" The talk is free, but reservations are suggested. Call 202-462-7833.