A new permanent mural in Seattle’s University District meant to honor the late singer-songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston is sparking conversations about mental health in the city.
The mural, which will be unveiled during National Mental Health Awareness month in May, features Johnston’s infamous illustration of “Jeremiah the Innocent” and will be recreated by Urban Artworks, a Seattle-based nonprofit that connects professional artists and local youth to create public artwork, and student housing group American Campus Communities.
The photoworthy, minimalist mural honoring his legacy and struggle with mental health will be located on the side of ACC’s Hub U-District building on University Way Northeast, popularly known as “The Ave.”
The announcement of the mural on Jan. 22 comes on what would be Johnston’s 59th birthday, a day designated as “Hi, How Are You Day” by an Austin-based nonprofit. People around the country were encouraged to ask their neighbors “Hi, how are you?” to open up conversations surrounding mental health and reduce the stigma about seeking help.
The choice of Seattle for the murals is significant to the city’s musical legacy, as Johnston’s visual art rose to prominence when Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt with the “Hi, How Are You?” album design at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. The band accepted the award for Best New Artist, and performed their hit song “Lithium.” The award show was also notable in the rock ‘n’ roll scene for a public feud between Cobain and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses.
Johnston passed away from a heart attack on September 11, 2019.