Sanna Legan, 22, using art to redefine activism


Sanna Legan, a feminist activist who uses her creativity to support reproductive justice, was selected as one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 to Watch (formerly 36 Under 36). This distinction honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community. Her work often explores how objects of control and dominance — a corset, a straitjacket — can be reimagined as statements of liberation. Legan lives on the Upper West Side.

For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.

New York Jewish Week: Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

Legan: I am an activist artist, creating vital work about reproductive justice and the fight for abortion access. For my artwork and activism, I have been featured on @instagram, and am a U.S. Presidential Scholar and a YoungArts Finalist. Currently, I am the social media manager for Abortion Access Front, getting to fight for abortion rights all across the country at this pivotal moment in history.

Who is your New York Jewish hero?

My New York Jewish hero is definitely my great-great-grandma Lena. She came to New York City from her village when she was a teenager, young and alone. I am who I am because of her sacrifices.

How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?

My Jewish identity influences everything I do. As a Jewish reproductive rights activist, my religion is an essential part of my activism. In Judaism, abortion is accepted and allowed. Religion is so often weaponized and used as an excuse by the anti-abortion movement to strip away human rights. My Judaism is proof that the whole “religion is anti-abortion” is complete fallacy. 

Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?

My family’s seders were instrumental to my upbringing. My family has always invited everyone to our seder, and I mean everyone. Our table would go through multiple rooms, with people climbing over each other — eating, drinking and laughing. There is so much of Jewish experience that is painful, and dark. Those moments were formative for me, too. But my family’s seders taught me about the importance of Jewish joy. Of making space and time for Jewish joy. That has influenced everything in my life.

What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?

Zabar’s. Always and forever.

Want to keep up with stories of other innovative Jewish New Yorkers? Click here to subscribe to the Jewish Week’s free email newsletters.