The Bear Festival's Heritage Sponsor continues to be Billy Roper Folk Art. A famed, self taught North Georgia folk artist, Billy Roper is an important contributor to Bear on the Square and the Georgia Pick & Bow Traditional Music Program.
He is best known for his expressive style of painting that combines colorful imagery on the front with handwriting on the back to tell a story or depict an emotion.
Music has always been a strong part of Billy's life, and that passion is shown in the nine months he spent painting a bass fiddle that was raffled off in April 2011 to raise money to benefit the Georgia Pick & Bow Traditional Music School, an instructional music program that helps to ensure that Appalachian music is passed down to the next generation. The winning ticket for the raffle was drawn at the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival that year.
Billy was the University of North Georgia's first artist-in-residence in 2007 and the book, "Billy Roper: Visual Storyteller," was the first work published by the University Press of North Georgia. He has worked in paints, wood carving and stone carving, and his art is in collections throughout the United States and in over 30 countries. Billy is also a renowned storyteller, musician and instrument maker, and his art, stories and music proudly reflect his Appalachian and Cherokee heritage.