S A L U D O S H I S P A N O S E dwin Gil grew up in a poor family in Colombia, South America and has overcome numerous obstacles to become one of America’s premier Latino Artists. He was named “Latino of the Year” by Agencia EFE (similar to our AP News, but in South America) alongside Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Journalist Jorge Ramos. Gil arrived in the U.S. 11 years ago without knowing English or having money in his pocket. After his life partner was killed in front of him in Colombia and two attempts on his life were made after a kidnapping, he decided it was time to leave and try to make a better life elsewhere. He has a natural talent for painting and color and has also developed a unique way of creating large mosaic-like pieces by recycling/upcycling glass and other materials. Success eventually followed and he was able to open his own gallery in 2010. “When I came to Charlotte 11 years ago, the dream of opening my own gallery was almost impossible and out of my reach. Today…I thank God, my friends and the Charlotte community for believing in me as an artist and as a human being.” Gil also enjoys public speaking, and will tell you that “Art Saved His Life” and in doing so, shares his touching story of triumph, determination and success as an artist in the U.S. His heartfelt story can bring a tear to your eye and serves as an inspiration to all who hear it. He inspires others with motivational and educational talks as well as with his ideas of creating social awareness through art. He believes hands-on activities combined with intentional dialogue about race, culture, and socio-economics help participants see how we're all connected and special in our own way. Gil is an avid social activist and he uses his art to bridge cultures. Over recent years Gil has recruited thousands of others to participate in several of his global art projects. For example, Gil shares his experiences as the founding member of Art Si (Art Yes) in conjunction with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library primarily about how one can take an idea for an art project and turn it into the building of social capital. He demonstrates how art can be a cultural connector and reveals some of his techniques on his website.