From Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta and New York's Puerto Rican community, Dee Davis, K. Shalong Morgan and Nilda Peraza have found they have much to share - including the lonely feeling that comes at times when trying to start a community arts project and keep it going.

They were among more than 250 participants who came to the first National Neighborhood Arts Conference and Festival to exchange ideas and experiences and to learn how to support themselves.

Neighborhood arts groups tap the talent and cultural resources within the people of the community, and aim more for a sense of community pride and identity than for commercial success. Most are non-profit.

Down in Whitesburg, Ky. (population 1,200), Davis, who was born and raised in the mountains, feels that arts aswel 1 as roads are needed to unite the region. He helps run Appalshop with a staff of 35 and earns 50 percent of their upkeep by producing documentary films, taking photographs and operating a recording studio and theater group.

He came to the conference, which closed yesterday at All Souls Church and was sponsored by the National Association of Neighborhoods, partly to learn how to earn the remainder.

"We're sort of an Appalachia cultural center," the 27-year-old Davis explained. "We don't want to be just an arts group.We want to say something about the community, talk of the mountains, to work and stay in the area and not leave it."

Appalshop has made films exploring issues important to the area, including strip mining. They have staged dramatic readings that draw on the folk art of Appalchia storytelling. One related how the coal barons came down from Pittsburgh to take over the land.

In Greenville,e, Miss, a city of 50,000, Morgan works for the Mississippi Action for Community Education (MACE), which reaches out to an area of 14 Delta communities. Last month MACE organized the first Delta Blues Festival, which attracted National attention. The festival prompted an editorial in the Delta Democrat-Times that observed:"

The Delta Blues Festival, quite simply, was the region's most important cultural event in memory . . . We can't remember anything in the Delta that ever made so many black folks and white folks so happy."

"Some of the musicians were working in furniture stores or on seasonal farm jobs. Now they're getting many more gigs to perform," Morgan said. "We hope to participate in the artistin-the-schools program under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The mayor now is talking about revitalization of Nelson Street, which was an historic place for the Delta blues."

Morgan paid her own way to Mississippi to attend the conferences, as did Peraza, who said one of the best things was that she had an opportunity to meet government officials and learn how to apply for grants, since she dosen't have "that much money to travel to Washington that often."

"Another good thing here is a chance to exchange ideas. She's from Mississippi and works in a rural area, and I'm from New york, and yet we can help each other," Peraza said.

She works with the Friends of puerto Rico, a nonprofit cultural group that runs a gallery in New York to show the work of Latin American artists and takes outreach programs into schools.

Both Morgan and Peraza agreed that is was important for community arts organizations to learn "the craft of grantsmanship and the "jargon" for writing proposals to apply for government funding. The conference participants heard representatives from the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities and from HUD.

The conference itself was a demonstration project reflecting what neighborhood arts groups are all about.

On Saturday and Sunday nights, there were festival shows with homenurtured talent - country and western music, jazz, folk, blues, Greek music and dancing. Middle Eastern belly dancers, Irish singers and Latin American performers.

"I just had to pick up the phone to call and get the performers. We don't realize the riches around us," said Hector Corporan, who organized the shows.

Topper Conference itself was a demonstration project reflecting what neighborhood arts groups are all about.

On Saturday and Sunday nights, there were festival shows with homenurtured talent - country and western music, jazz, folk, blues, Greek music and dancing. Middle Eastern belly dancers, Irish singers and Latin American performers.

"I just had to pick up the phone to call and get the performers. We don't realize the riches around us," said Hector Corporan, who organized the shows.

Topper Carew, the chairman of the NAN task force on the arts, was back in Washington for the conference. Carew, once an art energizer on the Washington scene, left here in 1972 and now divides his time between Los Angeles and Boston, his hometown, as a film producer, musician and architectural designer.

"These are artists who see themselves as part of the community. Life is a contact sport, they use their talent to brighten lives in the community, bringing some joy - and courage - to their neighbors."