Decades-old 'Hi, How Are You' mural preserved in West Campus
AUSTIN, Texas - A decades-old building at 21st and Guadalupe in West Campus was razed to the ground, but the decades-old "Hi, How Are You" mural painted on it, is still standing tall thanks to efforts to preserve it.
The developer American Campus Communities, which is building a student housing project on the site, agreed to preserve the mural, painted by singer and artist Daniel Johnston in 1993.
"Back when I went to U.T., it was a record store called Sound Exchange. And Daniel would sell his cassettes there," said Tom Gimbel, co-founder of the Hi, How Are You Project. "One day they invited him to take a ladder and a paintbrush and to be creative."
The centerpiece of the mural is a frog named Jeremiah, who was inspired by the frog who also appears on Johnston’s "Hi, How Are You" album.
"I think what Daniel intended with that frog was to be friendly, to be kind to one another, to say ‘hi, how are you?’ To have a conversation," said Gimbel.
A decades-old building at 21st and Guadalupe in West Campus was razed to the ground, but the decades-old "Hi, How Are You" mural painted on it, is still standing tall thanks to efforts to preserve it.
Johnston died in 2019, but his music, and the mural, lived on. In fact, it inspired the Hi, How Are You Project, a mental health nonprofit, in light of Johnston’s own mental health struggles.
"Encouraging people to be proactive and open in promoting mental wellness," said Gimbel.
The Hi How Are You Project worked hand-in-hand with the developer, to ensure the mural was incorporated into the design of the new building.
"They are incurring additional time and expense. But they're doing it knowing how important this mural is to the city of Austin," said Gimbel.
Many UT students we spoke to were surprised to see the mural is still there.
"I kind of didn't think that they would preserve it this way, but I'm glad that they have," said junior Brittny Allumbaugh.
"I actually just took a picture—sending it to my old group from high school. And I was like, ‘guys, it's still up,’" said Gimbel.
Gimbel says Johnston’s family is very pleased to see the mural live on, and hope this will inspire other developers to do what they can to "keep Austin weird".
"That they will recognize the history, the legacy, what made Austin special in the first place, and work to preserve it," said Gimbel.
We’re told the developer is trying to keep the mural uncovered throughout the construction, though it may have to be fenced off temporarily.
The Hi, How Are You Project celebrates Johnston’s life and legacy every year on his birthday, January 22, with "Hi, How Are You Day". The event encourages people to ask others how they’re doing (and mean it) and to have open conversations about mental health and mental wellbeing.
The organization also hosts the "Happy Habit-a-thon" every May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. The Happy Habit-a-thon encourages participants to practice habits that promote mental and physical wellbeing—such as being kind to a stranger, practicing mindfulness, cooking a healthy meal or exercising.