AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday, people are encouraged to ask a friend, neighbor, coworker or stranger a simple question: “Hi, how are you?”
It’s an annual event inspired by the famous Daniel Johnston mural on the corner of Guadalupe and 21st streets that aims to spark a conversation about mental health, and be there for those who need someone to talk to.
This year will mark the first time the artist and musician will not be in attendance after passing away late last year.
“With this being the first year Daniel is not with us, I think this just elevated the mission, the urgency behind it,” said Tom Gimbel, co-founder of the ‘Hi, How Are You’ Project.
Gimbel and fellow co-founder, Courtney Blanton, said they will continue to work to keep his legacy alive.
“He is so raw in his art with what’s going on in his head, and I think that’s why people connect to his artwork,” Blanton said.
For fellow artist and singer-songwriter Jamee Harris, Johnston helped her open up and share her struggles — in order to heal and in hopes of inspiring others.
“Daniel is inspiring to me because I can see myself in his songs: as a tormented outsider, desiring to be understood,” she said. “I think being understood is a desire for all of us, but especially those who battle mental illness.”
For Harris, she found solace in her music and art.
“Each time we’re able to see ourselves in art, it helps us feel less alone and keeps us here a bit longer,” Harris explained.
The Hi, How Are You Day concert kicks off Wednesday night at ACL Live at the Moody Theater featuring Cage the Elephant, Spoon and White Demin.
‘Hi, How Are You’ Beginning and Future
Johnston was reportedly paid $70 for that mural on The Drag back in 1993. The image gained nationwide attention thanks to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain wearing a T-shirt with the drawing on it.
The building where the mural is located was initially the Sound Exchange record store, and became a Thai restaurant years later until shuttering its doors at the beginning of the year.
American Campus Communities, a student-housing developer, purchased the Goodall Wooten building, where the mural is located, in July of 2018.
The developer plans to preserve Johnston’s work and legacy for future generations, and will also roll out special Hi, How Are You Project trainings this month for their residence life program. It will offer events and information with health and wellness as key topics.