"Of The Black Experience," the current exhibit at the Arlington Arts Center is a show of many faces and feelings, with people as the subject matter in many of the paintings, pottery and photographs.

The quality that unifies the display is the strong emotion the varying images provoke.

Robert Cwiok, the center director and organizer of the show, said the show was needed because "this was a group of people who have not before been dealt with specifically as a theme here in our area . . . . My intention is to give them visibility."

The show balances the unusual with the identifiable. Christopher Tompkin's "400," an acrylic on canvas, is a peaceful depiction of four women working in a fish company. The dark figures, viewed from the back, are set against a soothing shade of yellow.

There are other works in this genre, such as "Picker #1" and "Picker #2," charcoal on paper by Willis Potter. They are gentle yet sad, as are Margie Clay's photographs. Betty Woodhouse uses a combination of graphite, acrylic and crayon that results in a lovely composition entitled "The Luncheon."

Included, too, are more disturbing works. Allen B. Carter's "Maxton, N.C." is particularly violent. Stripes of fluorescent pinks and oranges cross over contorted faces. Roslyn Latto offers "Passive Resistance" and "The Order Changeth II," two watercolor and ink pieces that are self-explanatory in their titles.

In all, there are 26 artists in the show, three-quarters of them black. The show does not offer one singular statement about the black experience. Instead, the exhibit allows thoughts and feelings to emerge in reaction to the wide range of images.

"Of The Black Experience" through July 30. Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 524-1494. Closed Sunday and Monday. Other Events:

* Gallery West, paintings by Ricardo Denegri, Alexandria. For more information, call 549-7359.

* Fairfax Symphony Orchestra presents, "Hello Symphony." For more information, call 821-8118.

* Story and Song at Lubber Run, Arlington. Call 558-2161.