Take an artist's imagination and give it a business slant. "Women in Visual Communications: An Exhibition of Work by Northern Virginia Graphic Designers, Illustrators and Photographers," does exactly that.

On view at Northern Virginia Community College's Tyler Gallery on the Alexandria campus, this exhibit is a visual lesson on the variety of business channels a young artist can explore when thinking about the future.

Eleven women who have made a career in the arts are represented in their field of expertise. Backgrounds vary: some are self-employed, some free-lance and some work for large companies. Their common message is one that encourages students; these artists obviously have found success in their chosen fields of photojournalism, graphic design and illustration.

Clearly displayed, the show is hung in a step-by-step manner. A magazine layout is exhibited with each phase shown as it moves toward publication. Illustrations are hung in their original form next to versions that have been commercially printed.

The 11 women in the show are illustrators Bobbi Tull, Marsha Lederman and Donna Neary; graphic designers Annie Lunsford, Becky Eason, Karen Dodds and Elaine Sarao, and photographers Christine Valada, Clara Griffin, Margaret Thomas and Lynne Komai.

Co-curators Mary Anne Warner and Anne Salley were asked by the Virginia Museum in Richmond to do a show featuring local women artists as part of a year-long tribute to outstanding Virginia women, "A Share of Honor: Virginia Women 1600-1945." The NVCC show is considered a satellite exhibit to the celebration, which is being chaired by Virginia's first lady, Lynda Robb.

Warner and Salley said they were thrilled by the chance to do an exhibit that could bring students a close-to-home look at what contemporary artistic Virginia women are accomplishing. The show runs to Dec. 19. For further details, call 845-6273.

Other arts events in the area:

* The Arlington Ballet presents "The First Waltz" Friday and Saturday. For details, call 558-2161.

* The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra presents "Hansel and Gretel" Saturday. For details, call 821-8118.