Walter Kravitz wants to change the way people think about art and art galleries.

"What I like to say is that the process {of creating the work} is implicit to the work, and you can see the process at work from outside," he said.

"A Universal Installation," on display at the Greater Reston Arts Center, or GRACE, until Sunday, is a good example of the Walter Kravitz process. The kinetic sculpture, with accompanying music by Glenn Smith, occupies a room facing Lake Anne in Reston, and can be viewed from inside or outside the gallery.

"Previous to the work that I brought in, they {the Greater Reston Arts Center} were a gallery of objects, like most galleries are, with definite forms and shapes that either stayed on walls or stayed in the gallery contained in a certain area," Kravitz said.

"What I suggested to GRACE was to make the gallery into an object."

Kravitz accomplished that goal, with the assistance of Smith, a fellow George Mason University professor, and lighting designer Gary Floyd, by creating an artistic environment that draws passers-by with a mesmerizing combination of visual and aural qualities.

Kravitz filled a large white room with dozens of strands of fishing wire on which are hung small, plastic figures -- dime-store animals and plexiglass creations. The strands and figures are illuminated by a complex set of theatrical lights and accompanied by Smith's music. The optimum viewing of the piece is after dusk as the light and noise of the day fade away.

In the relatively gray setting of the gallery beside a man-made lake, "A Universal Installation" stands out as a beacon to Restonians out for a stroll. On a recent evening, none of the dozens of people who walked by the piece could pass by without pausing, at least briefly, to regard Kravitz's work.

Kravitz said that when he went to visit the installation with friends he "found that the more interesting comments or questions came from people who were already there and wanted to know why I did this."

Carl Peters of Reston echoed that feeling, saying that in his many visits he wished that the exhibit would continue to function later into the night when it would be possible to concentrate on the work without the disturbance of extraneous noises.

"Too many people are looking at the individual pieces and don't see the whole piece of art," Peters said. "You really have to sit and watch it for a while."

Julie Thomas of Gaithersburg was drawn abruptly to the piece while walking by. Her reaction to it was "It's like something I've dreamed before.

"I wish I could just get inside and brush up against the pieces," Thomas said.

Another viewer remarked that "it can almost hypnotize you." The gentle motion of the suspended objects has a hypnotic effect as they move slowly about under the influence of fans inside the gallery.

The play of light and the sound of the synthesized music compounds the ethereal effect of the piece. Kravitz said that composer Smith, whom he calls a "genius waiting to be discovered," "make3 music that exists in space as well as time."