Ten grants for arts projects in Northern Virginia were announced recently by the Virginia Commission of the Arts and Humanities, and three other grants have been awarded by the National Endownment for the Arts and Humanities.

The Virginia Commission grants range from $500 for inmates' art instruction in the Fairfax County Jail to $2,000 for the Virginia Ballet Company's spring production of an original Russian folk opera.

Ina Schecter of Alexandria, who directs the inmate program, said she will use the grant money to buy supplies for prisoners she has taught "for four years in a little room the size of a cell. . . ."

Because of limited funds and supplies, Schecter said, "We do a lot of self-portraits and portraits of each other, and draw from life. You should see the faces these guys paint. If there were money to find a way of assessing what is done, there would be an awful lot of insight into the people who are doing this art work.

"I want to improve the men's self-image through art. It's a safe, constructive thing to do, a natural means of expression and increases their aesthetic awareness. I've never had a fellow who had no telent."

Schecter, who is a volunteer instructor, said Fairfax County Sheriff James Swinson has been very supportive of the program. She added that when the new jail, called the Adult Detention Center, opens "there will be a real classroom for me to teach in, with running water for the first time." At her request, Schester said, jail officials redesigned one area of the detention center to include a sink for art classes.

The Virginia Ballet Company will use its grant to help produce "The Little Humpbacked Horse," a Russian fairy tale with original choreography by Tania Rousseau Tupine. She and her husband, Oleg, founded and are artistic directors of the Springfield-based company and school now in its 12th year.

Students of the company will perform the work April 29 and April 30 in what is being billed as the first production of the work by an American company. The only other performance of the ballet in the U.S. was presented by the Bolshoi Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera several years ago, according to Shirley Blunk, program chairman of the ballet's board of directors.

Other grants by the Commission to Northern Virginia groups include: Arlington Arts Center - $1,040 for a staff administrative position and $800 for a juried exhibition of high school artists' work, a joint effort of the center and Arlington County high schools; Arlington Dance Theatre - $1,000 for a dance production tour in rural Northern Virginia; Fiarfax County Council of the Arts - $1,200 for concerts at centers for the handicapped in Northern Virginia; Front Royal Oratorio Society, $1,000 for a performance of "The Creation," George Mason University Writers Conference, $1,500 for a 6-day workshop for beginning and advanced writers; Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale campus art department, $2,000 for special costs to include monumental sculpture in out-door exhibition, and the Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music, Winchester, $500 for scholarships for gifted students to study with professionals.

One of the three National Endowment grants went to Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, which received $3,585 for its arts exposure project "Arts Adventure at Wolf Trap."

Middletown's Wayside Foundation for the Arts received $2,500 from the Endowment for the Foundation's youth theater program. The money will be used to develop and set up a tour of a new work.

The Harambee 369 Degrees Experimental Theatre, Inc. was given $9,725 by the Endowment to support a teen and adult theater, as well as a dance and music training program in Fredericksburg. The group also operates a writers' workship that produces "a lot of original scripts related to the black experience," according to former project director Gaye Todd Adegbalola.

She said the Endowment money, which was in the form of a matching grant, was the second one Harambee had received from the Endownment recently. The two grants are the only financial assistance the theater has had since it was established eight years ago.

The theater was begun, Adegbalola said, "to give black students a channel for creative endeavors after the schools in this small town were the first desegregated. We supported ourselves for the first 6 1/2 years."

Harambee sponsors the local Miss Black Teenager Pageant, using profits from the pageant for its part of matching grants and to send theatrical productions on tour in area high schools, colleges, churches and rehabilitation centers in Virginia, she said.