The Montgomery County Board of Education has approved the purchase of eight works of art, costing a total of about $49,000, to be displayed at three elementary schools.

The eight projects, all created by local artists, include an $8,600 oil paint mural depicting a backstage view of schoolchildren preparing for a play and an $8,000 three-dimensional abstract of red glass and fiberglass.

Both works are to be installed at the newly renovated Bradley Hills Elementary School in Bethesda along with a $3,800 two-foot-high bronze sculpture of early Maryland colonialists.

Other works of art that have been commissioned include an $8,270 stained glass panel depicting the founders of Washington Grove, a $6,000 school-scene mural and a $3,000 sculpture, all for Washington Grove Elementary, and a $4,382 stained glass panel showing educational tools, and a $7,000 circular window, both for Woodlin Elementary.

The purchases, which the school board voted on last week, still must be approved by the County Council. The works are the first to be considered by the school board under a 1983 county law intended to bring professional-level art to county buildings, parks, bridges, parking lots and public plazas.

The law stipulates that funds equal to 1 percent of the construction or renovation costs of a county-funded building project be spent on artwork for the particular project or any other construction project within an agency's six-year building program.

Council Vice President William Hanna, the bill's sponsor, said he developed the legislation because he became "more and more concerned that in this technocratic society, that both the arts and the humanities are suffering."

Hanna says that, even in light of the county's increasing fiscal constraint, the legislation is defensible: "The tougher things get budget-wise, the more money we should spend on arts and humanities because we need it more," he said. "I just wish I thought the other 99 percent we spent on a construction project was as well spent as the 1 percent."

The school system, with nine building projects under construction, has received $251,000 this year to spend on art. Stephen Steinhart, the schools' capital projects assistant, said all the money probably won't be spent by July, the end of the fiscal year. Unspent funds can be rolled over to the following year.

The school system has placed a newspaper advertisement for an "environmental artist" for an art project at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring to "design, execute and install works of art to unify the interior and exterior walls and adjacent wall surfaces of the auditorium courtyard." The artist would receive a $34,000 commission.

Artwork allowances this year for other county government branches include: $6,000 for Montgomery College; $49,000 for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and $352,000 for general county facilities. The bulk of those funds has not been spent.