Supporters of the Greater Reston Art Center (GRACE) have raised more than $8,000, nearly three-quarters of the amount needed to pay a substantial rent increase for next year.

Landlord Gulf Reston Corporation recently notified GRACE that it would have to pay commercial rates of $1,000 a month. The private, nonprofit art center has until Jan. 1 to raise $12,000 for the first year's rent, said GRACE Executive Director Judy Forst.

GRACE has been occupying prime-location, waterfront space at Lake Anne Center for four years under an agreement with Gulf Reston that the gallery would pay what it could afford each month, said William Cox, president of Gulf Reston. The monthly rent payments have ranged from $40 to $100, Cox said.

Gulf Reston, developers of the planned community, recently agreed in principal to sell the offices, stores, rental apartments and industrial buildings it owns in Reston to CB Institutional Fund III of California, a real estate investment group made up of six large pension funds. The deal could be closed in January, according to officials of the real estate firm that manages the California group.

Cox said the letter notifying GRACE of the rent increase was prompted by a desire to "to get a paying tenant to enhance the value of the building." The Gulf Reston letter, which was sent to the art center at the same time the prospective sale of the property was announced, gave the center 10 days notice "to quit the premises on or before Nov. 10," but stated that GRACE could remain until Nov. 24 if the center would permit phones to be installed for the new tenant. The abrupt notice caught the group off guard with a full year's schedule of art shows and related activities planned, no place to go and no operating funds on hand, Forst said.

Forst contacted Cox and found him concerned and supportive, she said. Gulf Reston volunteered to find another location for the new tenant, if GRACE could meet its requirements as a commercial tenant.

Forst and Cox negotiated the Jan. 1 deadline for GRACE to show its ability to pay rent under a new commercial release. Forst said, however, that GRACE must raise the necessary funds to cover the lease long before Jan. 1 to prove its financial capability to itself and the new landlord.

GRACE supporters organized an extensive campaign to raise funds. Volunteers are conducting a door-to-door and telephone fundraising campaign, and a poster blitz of the city.

Two major fundraising efforts are planned. A cocktail reception to solicit support from Reston business leaders is slated for 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the Fourth Annual Champagne Art Auction on Dec. 2 will be turned into a special "Help Save GRACE" event, featuring the sale of original art work and art services.

In addition to many works by Northern Virginia artists, an original doodle by Elliot Richardson and a play plan from the Dallas-Redskins game signed by Joe Theismann will be among items auctioned.