Today is Hi, How Are You Day in Austin. The day was inspired by the late artist and musician Daniel Johnston to raise awareness of mental health issues. Johnston painted the iconic "Hi, How Are You" mural on 21st Street and Guadalupe. Today would have been his 59th birthday.
The Hi, How Are You? project began with a mission: to encourage people to check in on friends and loved ones in perhaps the simplest way, by asking how they're doing.
“And really mean it. Be sincere in asking that question and checking in on one another and making sure that we’re all doing all right from a mental wellness standpoint,” the project's co-founder, Tom Gimbel, said. “And if we’re not, let us know that it’s OK and that there’s help that’s available.”
Johnston struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life. His struggle was documented in the 2006 film The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He died in September.
Austin is marking the third annual Hi, How Are You Day with the unveiling of a new Johnston mural at the central library. The piece, “Jeremiah the Innocent & Friends in Zilker Park,” will be part of the library’s permanent collection on the fourth floor. There is also a separate collection of original Johnston sketches on display on the sixth-floor gallery until the end of March.
Johnston painted the 21st Street mural in 1993. It features a frog named Jeremiah the Innocent with the words “Hi, How Are You” above it. The artwork was originally the cover of Johnston’s music album by the same name from the early '80s. It was propelled to fame when Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt featuring the image. Now similar T-shirts are sold all over town.
“The mural has become kind of the unofficial, friendly ambassador of Austin,” said Gimbel, who co-founded the Hi, How Are You? project with Courtney Blanton.
Gimbel was Johnston’s manager for much of his career. He is also general manager of Austin City Limits.
The day will be capped by a benefit concert at ACL Live at the Moody Theater.
“It’s going to be a celebration and some sadness that we’re missing Dan,” Gimbel said.
Proceeds go toward mental health awareness programs. One of those is a new partnership with a student-housing company, American Campus Communities, aimed at freshmen and sophomores at more than 90 colleges.