Tate boss Sir Nicholas Serota and outgoing-National Theatre supremo Sir Nicholas Hytner will work with the corporation which has announced collaborations with organisations including Shakespeare's Globe and the Hay Festival.
Planned programmes include an animated film by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, a Northern Ballet version of Three Little Pigs for CBeebies and three more Shakespeare adaptations following on from the success of The Hollow Crown.
Radio 1 breakfast show host Nick Grimshaw will be one of the judges on The One Show's art competition, with the winner seeing their work on display at the Royal Academy and there are planned documentaries about David Hockney and two shows about radical writers presented by Lord (Melvyn) Bragg.
Director-general Tony Hall said the arts "will be at the very heart of what we do".
He said: "We'll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before - across television, radio and digital. And we'll be working more closely with our country's great artists, performers and cultural institutions."
Speaking at Broadcasting House in central London, Mr Hall said the focus on art would offer people "front row seats" at major events including the Edinburgh Festival with online performances from the Scottish capital.
He also announced filmmaker Sam Mendes would return as executive producer for the three Shakespeare adaptations of Richard III and parts one and two of Henry VI.
The corporation also appointed Radio 2 boss Bob Shennan to become director of music, while staying at the helm of the station, and BBC executive Jonty Claypole will become director of arts.
Modern-day authors will also write new final acts to some of the playwright's greatest works for Radio 4.
Mr Hall said the new focus on the arts would cost an extra £2.7 million over the year.
He refused to say what audience figures he hoped the programmes would attract across radio, TV and online but said he wanted to "reach many, many more people than we currently are".
He also confirmed there will be a new series of the ground-breaking arts documentary Civilisation, which was a huge hit when it was first shown in 1969 and made a star of its presenter, art historian Kenneth Clark.
Mr Hall said: "The idea for Civilisation came when I was standing in a queue for an arts exhibition in London and I thought 'Blimey! Look at this queue - it's full of all sorts of different people, young and old, black and white, people of all sorts of different backgrounds, and what can we do to make their experience, their ambition, even greater?'."