The new director of the Alexandria Arts Center has two major goals: increasing the focus on contemporary art and promoting more outdoor sculpture.

Deborah Jensen, who took over the director's job in late October, also hopes to increase community involvement in the 3-year-old center and, contrary to past policy, use more outside curators and jurors for shows.

But one of her major goals, Jensen says, is to make the center "more oriented to comtemporary art. We will add some performance art, for example, in the area of video, poetry or music."

The addition of performance art may be a new concept for some of the arts community, since it has developed only in the past 10 to 15 years. Jensen describes the technique as "the ultimate in art as autobiography."

"The artist places 'self' on display, in the midst of the work," she said. "There's a performance artist in this area -- Pat Malella -- who works with video and often addresses or talks to an audience while they're viewing videotapes of work she's done.

"Sometimes she'll have something to say while she's performing. Like she's a body painter and she might paint herself while her work is on view.

Although expanding contemporary art probably will be the biggest change Jensen makes at the center, she said she also hopes to expand outdoor art in the community.

"I'm now trying to initiate a fund-raising program to pay for commission works of outdoor sculptures in Arlington. As a first step we are getting one outside sculpture on loan for here at the Arlington Arts Center. We want to commission local Metro area artists, particularly Virginia ones, when we can."

Jensen envisions the program will begin next year with paid commissions for original works by artists. "We won't have money to purchase the pieces, just pay for the work and materials and put them on temporary display. In most cases, they'll probably be changed periodically."

Jensen is particularly proud of her plans for the outdoor sculpture program because "it's art that can be shared with the public very easily. I think it's terrific. I'm just in favor of having art where it can be seen."

Jensen, 28, initially planned to be a sculptor, but left her University of Maryland studies after two years to become assistant registrar in charge of cataloging loan programs and exhibitions at the National Collection of Fine Arts.

In 1978, she joined the Museum of Temporary Art, in the District, and became affiliated part time with the local office of Independent Curators, a traveling exhibition contemporary art based in New York.

Jensen says she finds "a great deal of potential in the Arlington Arts Center concept. (Artists rent studio space there and several galleries are available for exhibitions.) It's a chance to have art in the community where it's acceptable. That's good for the community and good for the artist."

Jensen is no longer a working artist herself, she says, since she doesn't really have the time to do art -- or to miss it.

"The last time I made any art was in 1977. Then I did sculptures, but I was mainly into event-oriented arts activities," she says. "That's why I started working for small arts organizations, because there weren't many alternative places where the kinds of things I was interested in could be seen. What I do right now satisfies everything I feel you make art for."

The Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and noon until 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 524-1494.