PBS chief programming executive Sylvia Bugg’s perfect day in

Placeholder while article actions load

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Sylvia Bugg’s career at PBS began in the pages of this very newspaper when she answered an ad in The Post’s jobs section for an administrative assistant role in the programming department. Nearly three decades later, Bugg now oversees non-children’s content for PBS as chief programming executive and general manager. The 51-year-old Montgomery County resident lives and breathes content, helping to curate and develop the prime time (and streaming) slate for PBS — everything from “PBS NewsHour” to “Sanditon” to Ken Burns.

“I have a pillow at home that says, ‘Content is king and distribution is queen,’ and I love that pillow,” Bugg says. “We want to create a space where all Americans have an opportunity to consume our content — it’s free.”

Bugg is on her third stint at PBS (she had roles at Discovery and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in between) but estimates she’s “probably done the majority of the jobs in programming” at PBS during the 15 (cumulative) years she’s worked there. Impressive, considering the Brunswick County, Va., native moved to the area fresh out of college in 1992 in search of a summer job. After living with her Pentagon staffer aunt and uncle in Prince George’s County for a spell, Bugg moved to Alexandria with her sister, ultimately putting down roots in MoCo.

“When I think about going around the Beltway, I’ve lived all around it,” Bugg says. Washington “has always been an area that I’ve been attracted to, from job opportunities to it being so accessible for travel and not being too far away from home. It’s also a great treasure of arts and culture.”

On a dream day in the District, Bugg will hop on the Metro and set out to explore some of D.C.’s cultural gems.

First of all, I’d sleep in later than normal. I tend to get up very early. Whether it’s work or the weekend, my body’s conditioned to wake up super early. So sleeping in for me is probably 8 or 9 a.m. I don’t really eat breakfast. I haven’t taken Metro in years now, and I sort of miss riding the Metro, versus driving down into the city. I can read on the train: On my to-read list would be the new Viola Davis book. I’d get on at the Shady Grove stop, and I’m going to do the Red Line all the way down to Gallery Place.

Viola Davis’s memoir, “Finding Me,” is no Hollywood tell-all

I’ll stop there because my first adventure would be the National Portrait Gallery. There’s something about it that is just beautiful. Some of my favorite exhibits are the first ladies gallery and the presidential portraits. I love that I can learn about different aspects of history. The last time I was there, I just stared at a portrait of Toni Morrison for quite a while and then Frida Kahlo — that oil on canvas — I just enjoyed that so much. It’s always fun when I go there. My learning through the work that I’ve done at PBS is reinforced in that experience, so I’d spend a good two-plus hours at the Portrait Gallery. There’s good people watching in there, too, because it’s such a great space.

I’m probably starting to want to eat something. There’s a cafe at the Navy Yard, Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery, and they have the best croissants. The reason why I talk about these croissants is that I have a colleague here at PBS, she was born in France, and she told me about this place. I’m thinking, okay, she’s from France, and she’s saying these are the best croissants ever? I need to try them. Some croissants and coffee will get me through lunchtime. The croissants are fresh, and they have so many types — like chocolate-filled — but I just try to go for a regular croissant with some salmon and capers.

I saw “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in Miami months ago. I got tickets for the New York location with some girlfriends from college, but then omicron happened. I want to go to the D.C. exhibit because I would love to see that again. Even if you don’t know Van Gogh’s work, or you just want to be in a different sort of art space, it’s great. All of the senses awaken. You can put on the VR headset and it takes you into this virtual reality experience. It’s a great way, to me, to show how art is so accessible.

The last place before I’d be ready to have a dinner thing would be going to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which I find to be a place of inspiration, of knowledge, of learning. I remember when it first opened, like many things here in D.C., you just sort of let the crowds go through and then you decide that you want to be part of it. Being in that space, I find it very serene and calming.

For dinner, I’m going to Nobu. I’ve been to the New York Nobu. I’ve been to the Miami Nobu. D.C.’s is in a good location, and I liked it a lot. So I probably would hit there and then a show at Arena Stage. I like the chef’s omakase, where you can get a sample of a whole bunch of different small plates and bites. They have a sea bass there that is amazing. And they have this crispy, thick rice appetizer — I think it might be a little fried — and it’s so good. Nobu is always a good go-to.

There have been a fair amount of August Wilson’s plays I’ve seen at Arena Stage over the years. They have one that’s coming up [in July] called “American Prophet,” and it’s sort of a musical that uses some of the speeches and writings from Frederick Douglass and is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, who has done a bunch of amazing stage productions at Arena. This one sounds terrific. I would love to take that in — I love that stage. Then I’ll hop back on the Red Line and finish off the day.